Underdog Bogan makes first trip to state final

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The buzz around Bogan this winter has been all about Luwane Pipkins and the boys basketball team, which won its first city title two weeks ago by beating top-ranked Simeon.

Maybe now the Bogan girls can get some love.

The Bengals are making their first trip to the state finals this weekend on the heels of their 63-60 upset Monday of No. 8 Rich South at the 3A Mother McAuley supersectional. Senior guard Brittany Byrd led the Bengals with 21 points including three 3-pointers.

“We got a shot now,” Byrd said, whose team will face Rochester in a 3A semifinal Friday at 2 p.m. at Redbird Arena. “Everybody doubted us. We were the underdogs. We had to come out and show them that we can play hard, and we’re not going to let anybody walk over us.”

The excitement of the moment nearly led to a Gatorade bath for 13-year coach Gary Bell, but cooler heads prevailed.

“They wanted to give me one,” Bell said. “This is great for the school. After the boys won the [public league title], now our program getting downstate, this is a great feeling. We’ve had good chemistry down the stretch this year, and that really helped us. The girls put it together, and they just wanted to win.”

Homewood-Floosmoor coach Anthony Smith won a lot at Bolingbrook, taking the Raiders downstate seven times and winning four state titles. But the Vikings haven’t been there since 1997, losing to Galesburg in their Class AA quarterfinal. Will his experience help?

“This is the younger generation,” he said. “They don’t believe it until they see it. I can have all the experience in the world, but until they decide they get it and they want it, how much I talk doesn’t matter.”

Here’s a look at Friday’s semifinals:

Class 3A

Montini (30-5) vs. Morton (31-3), 12:15 p.m.

The loss to Burlington Central on January 31 is a long-forgotten memory. The Broncos are back seeking their fifth title in six years behind a young but deep roster that would embarrass even Kentucky. Rainey Kuykendall and Kelsey Bogdan are the only seniors on the team. Sophomore Kaylee Bambule has made 80 3-pointers despite missing seven games with a knee injury. Morton lost to Montini two years ago in the third-place game, but both rosters have turned over. Junior Chandler Ryan and sophomore Brooke Bisping lead the Potters.

Bogan (22-9) vs. Rochester (32-2), 2 p.m.

Rochester is the smallest school in the field and is better known for a football program that has produced five consecutive 4A state championships. Five-foot-nine senior Laryn Sapetti and 6-2 sophomore Angela Perry do most of the scoring for the Rockets, who last got downstate in 2008. Don’t expect Bogan to roll over as the party newcomer. The Bengals have played one of the toughest schedules in the area including Young, Marshall, New Trier and Proviso East. “We have to go down there, play hard and give the other team a game,” Byrd said.

Class 4A

Benet (32-3) vs. Homewood-Flossmoor (20-6), 6:30 p.m.

Trinity led most of the way Monday against H-F until Annie McKenna exited with her fifth foul and the Blazers wilted under the Vikings’ relentless pressure. How will the Redwings fare? The key for Benet will be how well point guard Kathleen Doyle handles the heat and if she can stay out of foul trouble. Meanwhile, the Redwings must contend with speedy Bria Stallworth and find a way to rebound with H-F’s 6-2 Faith Suggs and 6-5 Eva Rubin. “We’ll give each opponent our best shot and see what happens,” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said.

Fremd (28-4) vs. New Trier (30-1), 8:15 p.m.

New Trier’s size, featuring 6-3 Jeannie Boehm and 6-2 Rachel West, has been a problem for most opponents. But Fremd isn’t most opponents. The Vikings can go 6-2 across the front line with Bryana Hopkins, Julia Wacker and Grace Tworek. How do you like your point guard matchup? How about Sun-Times Player of the Year Haley Gorecki of Fremd against New Trier junior Haley Greer? Neither team is likely to light up the scoreboard and state experience is not a factor. The first team to score 50 points wins?

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