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A dejected Kathleen Doyle (21) of Benet Academy walks off of the court as the Naperville Central Redhawks celebrate behind her their IHSA Regional championship win. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: firstname.lastname@example.org
Great comebacks are typically a combination of skill, luck and a lot of help. Naperville Central had all three Thursday in its Class 4A regional final against the hosts at Benet.
Naperville Central’s Victoria Trowbridge scored on a layup with 8.2 seconds left and Benet’s Christen Prasse was just long on a three-point attempt at the buzzer as the sixth-seeded Redhawks rallied from a 38-23 deficit over the final 11:17 to defeat the Redwings 44-42.
Naperville Central (25-6) advances to the Oswego sectional against the winner of the Metea Valley regional Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
For the better part of 24 minutes, it looked like Benet (20-10) would be the team cutting down the nets. The Redwings raced to a 21-8 lead after eight minutes and led 35-20 at halftime.
“We were down 15 and we thought we got 16 minutes left in our season, let’s go out and prove to them who we are,” Naperville Central’s Jamie Cuny said. “We both started getting tired at the end, then we hit some really key shots.
“We got the momentum in our favor,” the 6-foot-1 senior added. “That played a huge part. We went out and played out of our minds.”
Naperville Central still trailed 40-32 at the end of the third quarter and 41-33 with 2:12 remaining when Benet’s Eden Olson made the front end of a bonus opportunity. But two three-pointers by Shannon Ryan and one from Emily Craft and Benet’s failure to make free throws set up Trowbridge’s heroics.
“We knew coming in how big this game was,” Trowbridge said. “Obviously, it wasn’t ideal at halftime, but we knew what we had to do. I feel like in the first half we were kind of rushing. We were kind of flustered. In second half we played as a team. We got together we really pulled through.”
Central also got a little help when Prasse (11 points, eight rebounds) had to leave the game for more than a minute down the stretch after taking a Trowbridge elbow to the head with 1:36 left, and when Benet missed four consecutive free throws during the final 1:51.
Overall, Benet was 2 of 7 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and 5 of 13 for the game.
“It was a game of halves,” Benet coach Peter Paul said. “We had the first half they had the second. They put pressure on and we didn’t respond as well as we would have liked. Maybe that was our youth that came out. The girls began to realize what we were playing for.
“I thought we were going to hold on, but we missed some critical free throws that we would love to have put in,” he added. “That would have helped us tremendously, and we’re a very good free-throw shooting team. But give credit. They (Naperville Central) weren’t going to die.”
Trowbridge, a 6-foot-2 senior center, led Naperville Central with 17 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. Ryan added 13 points and Cuny finished with seven.
Sophomore Emily Schramek paced Benet with 14 points, sophomore Emily Eshoo added seven and freshman Kathleen Doyle had seven.