HINSDALE, Ill. -- Janee Thompson
had waited her entire high school career for this.
After three years of the Whitney Young (Chicago)
girls basketball team losing to three-time Illinois Class 4A champion Bolingbrook (Ill.)
in three consecutive years, twice in the state title game, Thompson and the unbeaten Dolphins finally struck back Monday night in a 4A Super-Sectional.
When the final second ticked off the clock in a game that lasted more than two hours, a contest that took four overtimes to produce a 74-65 Young victory, the University of Kentucky recruit jumped into the air in celebration. She was met by a group of teammates who jumped up and down joyously.
Nearby, Bolingbrook junior guard
had to be consoled by her teammates as the tears began to flow. She pulled up her jersey to hide her face.
Thompson put on a show, scoring a game-high 34 points and at one point in the second quarter, scoring 11 consecutive points to almost singlehandedly lead the Dolphins back from a 13-point deficit.
"She came over, she told me, ‘I got this, coach. I‘m gonna run this. I‘m gonna take care of it.' I said, ‘All right,'" said coach Corry Irvin. "We haven‘t had a player say that since the last time we won state."
That was in 2008. Since then, Young hadn't defeated Bolingbrook. The dramatic losses to Bolingbrook included a one-point loss in the state semifinals last year. This time, the Young versus Bolingbrook battle came in the Super-Sectionals, two games short of the state final, and featured two teams ranked among the top five in the nation. Bolingbrook entered the game at No. 3 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings presented by the Army National Guard
, unbeaten Young was No. 5.
"After the way the other games went in the past years, we wanted to do it for all our past players and for ourselves," Thompson said. "We‘ve been working extremely hard. I think this group deserves it the most."
"It means everything," said Alexis Lloyd
, a Virginia Tech recruit who scored 10 points, including a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in the third overtime to force a fourth overtime. "We've been working hard from day one. We still had that hunger from last year (Young lost by one point to Bolingbrook in the state semifinals). We stayed together as a team. We trusted in everybody, our coaches, everything. We never gave up."
The game clearly lived up to its potential. It was a roller coaster ride not fit for the faint of heart and clearly better suited for the bigger stage of a state championship game.
"I wish we had one (more) play in it. Three or four overtimes, I lost track of it," said Bolingbrook coach Anthony Smith. "Tough game."
Connecticut recruit Morgan Tuck
led Bolingbrook with 16 points and 13 rebounds, but was held scoreless in the final three overtime periods by Lloyd‘s physical defensive style. Nia Moore
, an Illinois recruit, had 14 points and Keiera Ray
also had 14.
Young's victory means that for the first time since 2005, Bolingbrook (26-2) won't be in the state championship game, ending an incredible run of six years in which the Raiders won four state titles and were runners-up twice.
Young (32-0) will play Bartlett (Ill.)
in the state semifinals Friday night in Normal, Ill. The winner meets either Edwardsville (Ill.)
or Loyola Academy (Wilmette, Ill.)
, a school on Chicago's north side, in Saturday's title game.
"It feels good to win this game and to get there, but now we've got to complete it and win downstate," Thompson said.
Bolingbrook's Ray sent the game into its first overtime by drilling a 3-point shot for a 47-all tie just before the game-ending buzzer sounded. The entire Bolingbrook bench emptied onto the court to hug Ray after that shot.
A basket in the final minute of the first overtime by Tuck forced a second overtime. A basket in the final minute of the second overtime by Thompson forced a third overtime. A 3-point shot by Whitney Young's Lloyd with 5 seconds left in the third overtime forced a fourth.
"Couple things, couple calls, couple things I probably could have done differently and had a different outcome. But Young hung in there and fought, we both fought. A heavyweight fight," Smith said.
Through it all, the Dolphins kept running because, well, that's what they do in practice. Thompson was one of the players (Young's Tuck was another) who played all 52 minutes.
"It actually wasn't that hard for us," Thompson said. "We run all the time in practice. She prepared us for situations like this, so I think we were fully prepared for this game. I'm actually not all that tired at all."