The numbers — 19 points and 16 rebounds — were star material alone.
But Leah Bolton did much more than put up big numbers for No. 16 Marist in its 61-51 victory over host No. 18 Mother McAuley in Tuesday’s Class 4A sectional semifinal.
After Mother McAuley had sliced a 17-point halftime deficit down to just four points with six minutes remaining, the Illinois-bound Bolton scored the RedHawks’ next seven points to restore order.
“Coach always tells us that defense is what gets you offense,” Bolton said. “We had some good defensive stops there, and for me scoring my points there I had teammates who were looking for the open man.”
Bolton’s heroics helped advance Marist (23-9) into Thursday’s sectional final against Marian Catholic. Other leaders for the RedHawks were JeTaun Rouse (17 points), Lizzie Zaleski (nine points, eight rebounds) and Brooke Wyderski (eight points, seven rebounds).
For Mother McAuley (22-7), Lauren Carlson had 16 points and eight rebounds, Alyssa Siwek 12 points and Elizabeth Nye eight points.
Siwek’s point total was a far cry from the 37 she scored against Marist on Jan. 8 in a 79-67 victory. Siwek had just four points in the second half.
Rouse, with help from Claire Ryan, got the call to keep Siwek under control.
“The main goal was just to belly up on her, not let her out of my sight the whole game,” Rouse said. “Her release is very quick. So I bellied up on her, no help at all. I just didn’t let her get the ball, that’s what I did.”
Marist exploded out of the blocks with a 12-2 run to start the game, and took a 36-19 lead into the break.
McAuley rallied during the third period, but it was an early fourth-period spurt featuring a free throw by Nye, and back-to-back baskets by Carlson that got the Mighty Macs close.
It was 46-42 when Bolton drove, was fouled, and hit two free throws. Then, after Nye hit a jumper to set the score at 48-44, Bolton again responded at the other end with a putback.
A Ryan steal on McAuley’s next possession resulted in a layup by Bolton. Bolton later added another free throw to make it 53-44.
This time the RedHawks were back in charge for good.
“It really hurt me the way the other game (in January) ended,” Bolton said. “So this game I made sure I walked in with a little chip on my shoulder, not being too selfish, but just playing basic, fundamental basketball.”