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February 23, 2017
By Mike Sandrolini
HINSDALE | Nachelle Rouse put into effect what her coach, Ezra PridGeon, Jr., has been urging her to do for a while—flick your wrist when you shoot—during the Lady Pirates’ Class 4A regional championship game at Hinsdale Central last Friday.
Rouse, a 6-1 junior, scored 15 of her season-high 20 points in the fourth quarter as Proviso East used a 12-0 run towards the end of the final period to turn what had become a close game into a 61-42 blowout of Hinsdale Central.
The victory netted East its third consecutive regional championship, but the Pirates faced a herculean task Monday night in their sectional semifinal contest at Argo: trying to knock off Montini Catholic—the state’s top-ranked Class 4A squad this season by the Associated Press and the Chicago area’s No. 1 club as ranked by the Tribune.
The Broncos crushed East 78-47 in the Montini Holiday Tournament Dec. 28—one of three losses the Pirates suffered in that tourney. Going into Monday’s matchup, Rouse and the Pirates were hoping for revenge.
“This (victory over Hinsdale Central) made us want to work harder because with Montini, we got defeated the first time (we played them) and we’ve tried to work harder and come back better,” Rouse said.
On paper, the Pirates had to be encouraged prior to the game because despite the Broncos’ dominance this season—Montini sported a 29-1 record, with its only loss coming at the hands of a team from Louisville, Ky.—Downers Grove North took Montini to the wire in the two teams’ contest for the Oak Lawn regional crown last Friday. DGN cut the Broncos’ lead to 40-39 in the fourth quarter before Montini finally pulled it out, 46-39.
However, the Broncos defeated the Pirates once again Monday, 77-47—a score that was nearly identical to their win over the Pirates Dec. 28—to advance to Thursday’s sectional championship game against Whitney Young. It was the Broncos’ 14th win in a row. The loss ended a 13-game win streak for the Pirates, who finished the year 20-6.
East played Montini close in the first quarter (Montini led 19-13), but the Broncos held the Pirates to six second-quarter points and led 35-19 at the break. It was 49-28 Broncos at the end of three quarters, and Montini poured it on from there.
The Pirates overcame an early 4-0 deficit to start the game by blitzing the Red Devils with a 14-0 run to grab a 14-4 lead following a Rouse putback basket. The Pirates led 14-6 at quarter’s end, with freshman Kendra Hatley scoring six points in the period.
“Our main goal is to come out and establish the tempo of the game,” said PridGeon. “A couple of times that we went down(court), we missed some easy baskets and it could have been a 4-0 start (for us). Unfortunately we missed those shots, but what we have to do is just settle down and regroup. When we regrouped, then we were able to start to execute and score.”
Sophomore Kemari Rimmer, who enjoyed a nice all-around game with 12 points, seven steals and six rebounds, netted two three-pointers during the second quarter to give the Pirates a 26-18 lead at intermission. That lead could very easily have been 26-15, but Hinsdale Central banked in a long three-pointer just before the halftime buzzer.
“She’s all over the floor,” said PridGeon, referring to Rimmer. “She reads the ball well and that’s how she gets those steals. And getting back to Nachelle, yes, she probably played her best game today (of the season). I’m looking forward to her continuing to do that and to stay out of foul trouble. She did a good job of doing that today.”
East took a 40-30 lead into the fourth quarter thanks to two Rimmer free throws, but Hinsdale Central chipped away and trimmed the Pirates’ lead to six points on two occasions (40-34 and 42-36 with 5:54 left).
At that point, PridGeon said, “I told them we still have to stick to our game plan and play smart defense. The goal was to win now; I knew we were quicker and more aggressive, just move our feet and stay out of foul trouble.
“They weren’t able to get their shots off because they were kind of tired.”
The Pirates momentarily increased their advantage to 46-37; however, Hinsdale Central sank a trey to close it to 48-40. But the Pirates put the game out of reach from that point.
East went on a 12-0 run with 2:16 to go, started by Rouse’s three-point play. Rouse scored seven of the Pirates’ 12 points during that stretch, capping it off with an inside bucket to make it 57-40.
“I didn’t want to lose,” said Rouse, who also had seven rebounds and four blocked shots. “I wanted to advance (to sectionals) because this is my junior year, and I needed to step up.”
Dee Brown added 11 points and eight boards for the Pirates.
The fifth-seeded Pirates walloped Chicago Vocational, 55-25, in their regional semifinal game played Feb. 15. Rimmer led the team with 12 points, six rebounds and five steals while Rouse added 11 points.
PROVISO WEST DROPS REGIONAL SEMIFINAL GAME
The Lady Panthers, hosting their own regional, were seeded No. 3 in the Argo sectional, but they were upset in their semifinal game, bowing to St. Ignatius, the 14th seed, 50-48.
The West Suburban Silver champion Panthers were led in scoring by Tanesha Walker and Miya Thomas, each of whom tallied 15 points. The Panthers lost four of their final five games of the 2016-17 season and finished the year with a 19-9 record.
West graduates a number of seniors who were instrumental in their march to the WSS crown: Walker, Thomas, Mariah Henry, DeAvionne Carpenter, Mariah Reed and Kayla Parham.