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Rolling Meadows' Ashley Montanez (far left) and Jenny Vliet (second from left) celebrate their Class 4A 61-44 semifinal match win over Huntley with their teammates at Redbird Arena Friday, March 1, 2013, in Normal. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
NORMAL, Ill. — Rolling Meadows proved that it’s not how you start that matters. It’s how you finish.
The Mustangs fell behind 9-4 early in the first quarter, used a 15-0 run to take the lead in the second quarter and closed on a 20-8 spree to defeat Huntley 61-44 in a Class 4A state semifinal Friday at Redbird Arena.
Jenny Vliet scored 18 points, Alexis Glasgow had 16 and Jackie Kemph added 12 points, six assists and five steals for Rolling Meadows (30-3), which will play in the Class 4A title game Saturday at 8:15 p.m.
Rolling Meadows did not panic when Huntley (26-7) raced to a 9-4 lead just 4:35 into the game. In fact, the Mustangs prepare for such occurrences.
“Early in the season at end of practice when we’d scrimmage, we’d tell our starters ‘hey were down 11 points with four minutes left,’ ’’ Mustangs coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. “Our second team is a good second team, and in four minutes our starters would score 19, 21, 23 points.
“I don’t think these kids care about falling behind. We’ve been there before.”
But Huntley didn’t crack after Rolling Meadows’ 15-0 run gave them a 19-9 lead. The Red Raiders battled back to within 33-31 at halftime on a short jumper by Sam Andrews to beat the buzzer.
Huntley was still within 41-36 late in the third quarter when Rolling Meadows mounted a 10-2 run capped by two Vliet free throws that put the game out of reach.
“My defense fuels my offense,” the 6-2 junior said. “I definitely think we had amazing perimeter ball pressure and made if difficult for them to get into the post. I thought we doubled the post really well.”
Ali Andrews led Huntley with 16 points, Sam Andrews added 11 and seven rebounds and Bethany Zornow had 10 points, including a three-pointer that got the Red Raiders within 28-25 with 1:51 remaining in the first half that helped Huntley erase Meadows’ 10-point lead.
“They got some tough runs on us in stretches in the first half,” Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. “We did a great job battling back through some adversity to cut it to two at the half. But we got into foul trouble in both halves and two decisive runs extended their lead.
“We needed to maximize our possessions and get ball reversals and the times we did that I thought we were very successful,” he added. “But the times we didn’t do that really played into their hands and turned into fastbreak opportunities for them.
“They’re just an outstanding team,” Raethz said. “They’re really solid at all five spots.”