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Vernon Hills' Sydney Smith (left) and Kasey Firnbach (center) try to get the ball away from Grayslake Central's Rachel Effa during their sectional basketball game at Vernon Hills. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
For the second year in a row, Vernon Hills found a way to put an end to Grayslake Central’s season.
This time around, it was a 39-26 Cougars victory in the semifinals of the Class 3A Vernon Hills sectional.
Lauren Webb notched a game-high 14 points for the Cougars, who led 10-5 at the end of one, 23-15 at halftime, and 28-21 at the end of three — before pulling away down the stretch. Meri-Bennett Swanson (10 points, 12 rebounds) also notched a double-double for the hosts.
Both teams shot the ball poorly. Vernon Hills (28-2 overall) finished 12-for-45 from the field, while Grayslake Central (20-11) shot just 11-for-43. The victory set a school record for most wins by any varsity girls team in Cougars’ school history.
“You know what, it’s postseason basketball,’’ Vernon Hills coach Paul Brettner said. “Every game is a defensive battle.’’
Grayslake Central junior Center Morgan Dahlstrom paced the Rams with a team-high seven points and 12 rebounds in the losing effort.
Rams coach Steve Ikenn has taken his team to the sectional round or further each of his first three season’s as the team’s head coach.
“Our girls gave it everything they had,’’ Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn said. “We held a high-powered offense to just 39 points. But you’re not gonna win a ton of games when you only score 26 points.
“Not a lot of people thought we’d get 20 wins, but we did.’’
The Cougars advance to face third-seeded Regina Thursday night in the sectional title game, after the Panthers put an end to Cinderella 10th seed North Chicago’s playoff run with a 63-56 win of their own in the evening’s other contest.