Rolling Meadows’ Jenny Vliet only scored five points and was misfiring on her shots all night. But the 6-foot-2 junior did not hesitate with her team trailing 55-54 with 1:32 remaining in Friday’s second semifinal game of the Montini Christmas Tournament.
Vliet buried a three-pointer from the left of the key to give the No. 7 Mustangs a 57-55 lead, and Jackie Kemph did the rest making four free throws in the final 52.3 seconds as Rolling Meadows stunned No. 2 Marian Catholic 61-55.
Rolling Meadows (16-0) will face Montini (17-1) in the championship game Saturday at 8:00 p.m. And you can bet Vliet and friends will be firing away without a conscience.
“I wasn’t making shots all game,” Vliet said. “But I told myself to keep shooting, you got to keep shooting. Jackie (Kemph) gave me a great pass I knew I had to shoot it.”
The Mustangs trailed by as many as 11 points in the third quarter at 35-24 after Marian Catholic closed the second quarter on a 9-0 run to break a 20-20 tie. But the deficit didn’t seem to bother the Mustangs, who took their first lead of the second half at 49-47 on Vliet’s first points of the game with 5:07 left.
“We practice like we’re down so we can do it in games,” Vliet said. “We want our defense to feed our offense.”
A change in the Mustangs’ defense helped to ignite the comeback.
“They have some phenomenal players,” Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. “I probably should have recognized earlier that we had to go zone to give us a chance against them. Our kids aren’t scared of any situations. They take big shots and run the ball in tight situations.”
The Mustangs also went more to their perimeter game in the second half, partly out of necessity.
“They (Marian Catholic) have so much quickness,” Kirkorsky said. “They did a great job of keeping us out of the paint. We talked at halftime that we had to get to our shooters on the wings. They can’t stop everything. We have kids who have the confidence to step up and shoot.”
Jackie Kemph led Rolling Meadows with 27 points, Alexis Glasgow added 12 and Morgan Keller, the only senior on the roster, added 11. Teniya Page led Marian Catholic (13-1) with 12 points, Ashton Millender and Melanie Ransom each had 11 and Megan Walsh added 10 after battling foul trouble.
“We could never get into a good rhythm,” Walsh said. “We tried to keep our heads up, we just couldn’t get into a rhythm. We knew No. 3 (Kemph) could drive. The whole time she kept driving, but she also adjusted and started making her threes.
“They made tough shots,” Walsh added. “We just kind of put our heads down at some point when we should have kept our heads up.”