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Marist’s JeTaun Rouse was kind of hit and miss for the first few minutes of Friday night’s Class 4A Thornwood title game against Lincoln-Way North.
“Yeah, my knee was kind of bothering me a little bit,” she said. “I took a (Motrin), and it knocked it right out.”
Feeling better, Rouse went on to knock out North.
The senior guard lit up the gym with 30 points in Marist’s 71-55 victory that advances the third-seeded RedHawks to Tuesday’s Mother McAuley Sectional semifinals and a date with the host Mighty Macs.
Other standouts for Marist (22-9) were Leah Bolton (23 points, 7 rebounds), Brooke Wyderski (8 points, 11 rebounds) and Hannah Michalak (7 rebounds). Lincoln-Way North (23-6) was led by Sam Pietruzynski (20 points) and Valen Manns (16).
Marist’s formula for victory basically was defense and speed. Both played roles in a series of runs the RedHawks employed to gain separation after a good battle raged for the better part of two quarters.
With about three minutes remaining in the first half, Marist led just 27-25 when Michalak and Rouse went back-to-back with second-chance baskets.
Then back-to-back steals on the press by Wyderski and Michalak resulted in two Wyderski free throws and a fast break bank-in by Rouse. It was 35-26 at intermission.
North had a fair amount of success from the perimeter, but found nothing but frustration trying to drive on Marist. On several occasions the Phoenix guards were stuffed in the lane while other RedHawks broke free the other way for quick passes and easy baskets.
“We worked on help-side defense a lot in practice,” Wyderski said. “That’s what we brought to the game.”
Rouse and Bolton did the bulk of the scoring during a second half in which the RedHawks led by as many as 18 points. North cut the bulge to nine with four minutes left to play but would get no closer.
“I was happy with our girls. I was very proud of the effort,” North coach Jim Nair said. “They attacked the basket, but Marist did a good job coming over from the help side to keep us from getting easy buckets.
“Rouse and Bolton were phenomenal, two of the best players we’ve gone against this year.”