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Maine South threw caution to the wind Thursday night and it paid off with a berth in the semifinals of the 30th annual Dundee-Crown Charger Classic.
Mother McAuley was in the midst of making a furious rally, having chopped a 13-point deficit down to one with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter. That’s when Erin Kieny fired an inbounds pass nearly the length of the court to Regan Carmichael, who caught the ball in stride for the decisive layup in a 63-59 victory.
McAuley still had a chance to tie after Carmichael’s play, but the Mighty Macs’ final possession ended when Jacqui Grant stole the ball and finished the scoring with a free throw with four seconds to go.
“I trust Erin’s arm; she’s got a good arm,” Carmichael said. “[McAuley’s Alyssa Siwek] came up and almost stole it, but you’ve got to be cool in the moment to go for that finish.”
Maine South coach Mark Smith, whose team will face Fenwick in Friday’s semifinals, drew up the play during a timeout, confident that his players would succeed.
“Some people would say if you throw it out of bounds, they get the ball underneath with a chance to win, but I’d like to say that if you execute it well you put the game away,” Smith said
Putting the game away proved to be difficult for the Hawks (14-2), who led 50-37 early in the fourth quarter only to watch as McAuley (10-3) stormed back behind Siwek and Lauren Carlson, who combined for 15 points in the final period.
Siwek buried a pair of three-pointers to get the comeback started and Carlson tallied nine of her 15 points down the stretch, including an inside hoop with 22 seconds left to pull the Mighty Macs within 60-59.
“The kids will battle,” McAuley coach Ashley Clanton said. “They’re not going to let anyone off the hook, that’s for sure.”
But the same can be said of the Hawks, who had to play the entire second quarter without the 6-3 Grant and nearly as long without 6-0 junior power forward Hailey Schoneman. During their absence, Maine South actually outscored the Mighty Macs 16-12 to take a 30-21 halftime lead.
“I’m just so proud of the girls who came in and helped out the team,” said Carmichael, a St. Louis-bound senior guard who had 13 points and six assists and actually played the post during Grant’s absence. “That’s when we’re hard to beat, when everybody else contributes.
“Obviously you want your tallest girl in, one of the best posts in the area, but give credit to the other girls who came in because they were able to step up and come in.”
Grant wound up with 19 points, while Mackenzie Duffy had 12 points and Schoneman nine. But Kieny chipped in five points, six rebounds and five assists and reserves Emilie McGuire, Claire Raphael, Megan Roberts, Katherine Miles and Kelly Kons played key minutes.
“[McAuley] shot the ball really well in the fourth quarter, lights out, but for us to withstand that we had to extend the lead early,” Smith said. I thought our kids played real well.
“The second quarter was really important for us. Both Jacqui and Haley were out, which is rare for our two starting post players to be out. Having said that, they don’t have a true post in there so it made it easier going to a four-guard lineup.
“Regan did a nice job of going from point guard to post and got some baskets in the paint. She’s such a competitor and she’ll do exactly what we ask her to do, so that was a real key piece of the game.”
Siwek wound up with 15 points and five steals for McAuley, which also received 14 points form Nye and 10 from Kristen Kleist.