NORMAL — Huntley started fast, but Rolling Meadows proved that it’s not how you start that matters. It’s how you finish.
The Mustangs fell behind 9-4 early in the first quarter, used a 15-0 run to take the lead in the second quarter and closed on a 20-8 spree to defeat Huntley 61-44 in an IHSA Class 4A state semifinal at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University.
Huntley (26-7), making its first appearance in the state finals, will play Whitney Young for third place Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Rolling Meadows’ explosiveness and Huntley’s lack of patience fueled the Mustangs’ two long runs, Huntley coach Steve Raethz said.
“They got some tough runs on us in stretches in the first half,” Raethz said. “We did a great job battling back through some adversity to cut it to two at the half. But we got into foul trouble in both halves and two decisive runs extended their lead.
“We needed to maximize our possessions and get ball reversals and the times we did that I thought we were very successful,” he added. “But the times we didn’t do that really played into their hands and turned into fastbreak opportunities for them.”
Rolling Meadows did not panic when Huntley (26-7) raced to a 9-4 lead just 4:35 into the game. In fact, the Mustangs prepare for such contingencies.
“Early in the season at the end of practice when we’d scrimmage, we’d tell our starters hey were down 11 points with four minutes left,” Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. “Our second team is a good second team, and in four minutes our starters would score 19, 21, 23 points.
“I don’t think these kids care about falling behind,” he added. “We’ve been there before.”
But Huntley didn’t crack after Rolling Meadows’ 15-0 run gave them a 19-9 lead. The Red Raiders battled back to within 33-31 at halftime on a short jumper by Sam Andrews to beat the buzzer.
Huntley was still within 41-36 late in the third quarter when Rolling Meadows mounted a 10-2 run capped by two Jenny Vliet free throws that put the game out of reach.
“My defense fuels my offense,” the 6-foot-2 junior said. “I definitely think we had amazing perimeter ball pressure and made if difficult for them to get into the post. I thought we doubled the post really well.”
Ali Andrews led Huntley with 16 points, Sam Andrews added 11 and seven rebounds and Bethany Zornow had 10 points, including a three-pointer that got the Red Raiders within 28-25 with 1:51 remaining in the first half that helped Huntley erase Meadows’ 10-point lead.
Vliet had 18 points, Alexis Glasgow had 16 and Jackie Kemph added 12 points, six assists and five steals for Rolling Meadows (30-3), which will play Marian Catholic in the Class 4A title game Saturday at 8:15 p.m. Huntley meets Whitney Young in the third-place game at 6:30 p.m.
“They’re (Rolling Meadows) just an outstanding team,” Raethz said. “They’re really solid at all five spots.”