NAPERVILLE – For the past two seasons, Minooka and Bolingbrook have faced off on the girls state tournament trail. Last year, the Raiders beat the Indians in the regional final.
Tuesday night at the Neuqua Valley sectional semifinal, Bolingbrook did it again as the Raiders used a dominate third quarter and beat Minooka, 73-43, to advance to Thursday’s 7 p.m. sectional final against Naperville Central, which ousted Lockport, 58-41, in the second semifinal.
Minooka (23-9) hung around the first half and only trailed 33-26 at the half. But Bolingbrook’s Gabriella Smith hit two 3-pointers to start the quarter and the Raiders (23-4) came to life as they outscored Minooka 26-10 to take a 59-36 lead to the final eight minutes.
“We started the game with not much energy, then Gabriella got two quick fouls and we could never really get her going in that first half,” Bolingbrook coach Chris Smith said. “She came out and hit those 3s to begin the second half and our defense really got it going. Our defense is our offense. When we convert on the defensive end, it really helps our offense.”
Gabriella Smith, a senior and the Raiders’ leading scorer on the season, ended with 23 points, 17 in the second half.
But rebounding was a big key for the Raiders and they got a tremendous game from fellow senior Jahari Smith. All she did was grab 18 rebounds and score 18 points.
“I take a lot of pride in rebounding and when you can rebound on both ends of the floor, it helps everything,” Jahari Smith said. “At halftime we talked about playing Raider basketball and we came out in that third quarter and played like we do. When we play defense, the offense comes easy.
“Winning state is our goal and I know you have to take it one game at a time, but you also must see the future.”
Sophomore Danyel Middleton added 13 points for the Raiders.
As the second quarter began with Bolingbrook leading 16-10, Minooka found its way shooting as the Indians hit three 3-pointers and trailed 25-24 with 2:58 left in the half. Middleton then hit two consecutive 3s for the Raiders and Jahari Smith made two free throws to take the 33-26 halftime lead.
Minooka was led by nine points from Sydney Andreano and seven from Jenna Roberts. A key piece for the Indians was the finger injury to Cierra Bachmann midway through the second quarter. She did not return.
“Everything on both ends of the floor runs through Cierra and losing her was a big blow to us,” Minooka coach Ray Liberatore said. “She is going to go for X-rays when we leave here.
“I’m very proud of our four seniors and how we never gave up tonight. Bolingbrook is a very good team and their rebounding tonight was great. They took advantage of their height and got a lot of points off offensive rebounds. That’s sports, but I’m very happy with our season.”
In the second game of the evening, Lockport, playing in its first sectional since 2007, fell to Naperville Central, 58-41, in another game where the third quarter proved to be the difference.
Lockport led the entire first half, except for a brief 4-3 deficit, as the Porters took a 20-16 lead to the locker room.
The RedHawks scored the first 12 points to open the third quarter, scoring six within the first minute off Porters turnovers. After a Lockport basket, Central then scored nine consecutive points en route to a 44-30 lead heading to the fourth quarter.
The Central duo of senior Mia Lakstigala and junior Lucy Schmid combined for 42 points. Lakstigala scored 26 of those.
“We knew we had to take number 31 [Lakstigala] out of the game as much as possible and she got loose in that third quarter and before you knew it, we were down 15,” Lockport coach Dan Kelly said.
It was the final game for four Lockport seniors – Destiny Davis, Taylor Hopkins, Taylor Shingler and Megan James.
“I’m so proud of our four seniors. They have been the catalyst of how we have grown and what we have accomplished over the past four years,” Kelly said. “Destiny and Taylor [Hopkins] have been on the varsity since they were freshmen, the same time I took over the program. Your first group as a coach is special and all four of these girls are. Everyone in our program is better off because of them.”
Hopkins lead the Porters with 12 points. Sophomore Treasure Thompson chipped in eight and Davis scored seven.