Lake Forest stymies Grayslake Central to claim 3A regional crown

Big games are nothing new for Rachel Kaus.

By this point of her four-year varsity career, the Lake Forest senior guard can handle nearly any situation.

A starter since her freshman season when Halle Douglass, the all-time program leader in nearly every statistical category, helped put the Scouts on the map, Kaus has put her own personal stamp on the program.

Her name might not carry the significance of Douglass, a junior guard at Wisconsin, but Kaus will have a special place in program lore.

Friday was another opportunity for Kaus to add another significant milestone.

With the Scouts struggling in the early minutes of the Class 3A Lake Forest regional championship game against Grayslake Central, it was Kaus who stepped up to change the complexion of the game.

Kaus sparked the third-seeded Scouts with another big game, racking up 16 points, 15 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in a 51-25 victory over sixth-seeded Grayslake Central.

The Scouts (22-10) captured their fourth regional title in six years to advance to Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. Deerfield sectional semifinal against the second-seeded Warriors. Senior forward Aliya Maldonado had 8 points and Sarah Constantine contributed 7 points for the Scouts. Senior point guard Bella Ranallo tallied 6 points and 5 steals.

"To win a regional title in my senior and freshman year on this court is so special, and I'm glad I could get another one," Kaus said. "We had a really rough and slow start tonight, but we knew what we could do and pulled together to get a win."

Sophomore guard Madison Hoffman led the Rams (19-12) with 16 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 steals. Hoffman showed she's on track to become an elite player, helping carry the Rams despite the Scouts sending a wave of defenders her way throughout the game.

Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn praised his players for a memorable season, especially with Hoffman the lone starter on a young team that won the Northern Lake Country Conference title.

"I'm very proud of them because no player on our team had even played in a regional championship game," Ikenn said. "We had three freshmen, six sophomores and two seniors. What they did is a testament to their abilities and desire. We ran into a very talented and well-coached team."

Trailing 10-6 in the first quarter, Kaus started attacking the offensive glass for putbacks to ignite the Scouts. She scored 6 of Lake Forest's next 8 points for a 16-10 lead. From there, the Scouts never looked back, cruising to a 27-14 lead at halftime.

Kaus, who averaged 16 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 assists in the regular season to be named North Suburban All-Conference, impacted Friday's game on both ends. She played solid defense, attacked the boards and even took a charge on Hoffman in the opening minute of the third quarter.

Kaus, a Cornell recruit, admitted playing her freshman season with Douglass made her strive to become a complete player.

"Halle did so much for us, so I tried to do the same drills to try and get better," Kaus said. "I'm so happy that I could be in a position like her in my career and help the team this way."

Ranallo, also a four-year varsity player who was instrumental in leading the Scouts to a regional title in her freshman season, hounded Grayslake Central's guards all game. Ranallo, who topped the 1,000-point mark for her career on Tuesday, helped blow up the game with her defense and pushing the pace on offense.

"It's special to win a regional in my freshman and senior year, and great to finish it off here at home with a win," Ranallo said.

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