NORMAL, ILL. — Marian Catholic didn’t need a 40-foot miracle this time. Just a right-place, right-time rebound basket with two seconds remaining.
Kauai Bradley made the third shot of a final frantic flurry under the Spartans’ basket with no time left to lift Marian Catholic to a 48-47 victory over Rolling Meadows in the Class 4A championship game on Saturday at Redbird Arena.
Bradley scored only five points, but her 11th and final rebound proved to be the difference.
“I was getting that rebound for my team,” the 6-foot sophomore said. “My thought process was just to put it back up and hope it went in. When it was rolling, I didn’t think it was going to go in. But when it dropped I was like, ‘Yes!’’”
Rolling Meadows (30-4) had taken a 47-46 lead on an inbounds play from Jackie Kemph to Jenny Vliet with 26 seconds left.
Marian Catholic (33-1) took a timeout with 11.1 seconds remaining to set up a final play.
“That was a great out-of-bounds play by Rolling Meadows,” Marian Catholic coach Annie Byrne said. “I didn’t expect them to go inside, then we ran a play with a couple of options that I thought would be good and the kids just stuck with it.”
Rolling Meadows led 8-7 before Marian Catholic’s Teniya Page hit a lean-in jumper, Melanie Ransom converted a layup on a pass from Megan Walsh, and a Millender layup.
The Spartans led 18-10 after a putback by Walsh before the Mustangs rallied on a three-pointer by Alexis Glasgow, a free throw by Vliet and a putback by Morgan Keller. But Marian closed the first half on a 7-0 run aided by a three-pointer from Brianna Narcissi.
Meadows opened the third quarter on a 10-0 run capped by five straight points by Glasgow. The seesaw continued with the Spartans grabbing a a 33-29 lead, but Glasgow’s three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Mustangs a 38-35 lead after three quarters.
Page put Marian Catholic back on top at 42-39 with a three-pointer and a nifty drive through the lane, but Vliet answered with a short shot off the glass and a feed to Ashley Montanez. Marian Catholic took a 46-45 lead when Millender made one of two free throws with 54.3 seconds left.
Rolling Meadows came back to lead on the inbounds pass, setting the stage for Bradley’s heroics.
Page led Marian Catholic with 13 points and Millender added 12 points. Glasgow led Rolling Meadows with 24 points on 8-of-17 shooting and Vliet had 12 points and eight rebounds.
“It’s absolutely devastating,” Glasgow said. “We didn’t come off to a strong start, but we’ve been in this position before. We knew before we went into the locker room (at halftime) that we weren’t giving up. We came here to win a state title, and I think we played an incredible second half.”
Rolling Meadows opened the door for Marian Catholic by missing 4-of-5 free throws in the fourth quarter. They were also hurt at times by their inability to rebound, particularly during the final flurry.
“Definitely, rebounding in the first half and some stretches in the second,” Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. “We told the kids at different times during the game the only way you’re going to win the game is hitting the boards and giving a better defensive effort.
“I can’t complain,” he added. “My kids did everything I asked them to do. Marian Catholic made one more play then we did at the end.”
The game might also put to an end the speculation that Rolling Meadows’ win over Marian Catholic at the Montini tournament — the Spartans’ only loss this season — was a fluke.
“You saw two evenly matches teams with a great amount of heart,” Kirkorsky said. “They just made one more play. That’s what it takes sometimes to win a game.”
Or a state championship.