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Ashton Millender, of Marion Catholic, stands in disbelief after hitting a mid-court three pointer at the buzzer to beat Marist for the Girls Class 4A Sectional Championship at Mother McAuley, Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, in Chicago. | Gary Middendorf~For
Marian Catholic junior Ashton Millender said she goofs around taking 25-foot shots at practice all the time.
Thursday night, she was totally serious when she put one up against Marist, down one, at the buzzer in the Class 4A Mother McAuley Sectional final.
She was totally accurate.
“I didn’t know if it was going to go in … I guess I was lucky. This feels great,” an overwhelmed Millender said after her bank-in gave Marian a 54-52 victory before a screaming, near-capacity crowd in Mount Greenwood.
Teniya Page had 20 points, Kauai Bradley 11 points and Megan Walsh 12 rebounds for the No. 3 Spartans (30-1), who advanced to Monday’s Illinois Wesleyan Supersectional vs. Peoria Richwoods.
No. 16 Marist (23-10) was paced by JeTaun Rouse (23 points) and Leah Bolton (22 points, 14 rebounds).
Before Millender’s heroics, Rouse appeared to be the spotlight star after hitting a 10-foot jumper with two defenders all over her.
Only 2.8 seconds remained for Marian to pull off a miracle.
During the timeout, Spartans coach Annie Byrne pulled a play out of her book that worked in her first season as the Spartans coach when Kathlyn McClain hit a halfcourt shot for a sectional win over Joliet Catholic.
This time, Melanie Ransom took the ball from the official under the far basket and put it on the ground. Walsh, the tallest Spartan at 6-1, ran over and picked up the ball. Walsh fired a pass over the halfcourt line to Millender.
The rest is history.
“She made a great pass,” Byrne said of Walsh. “And we got the lucky shot. [Millender] had the courage to take a look and get it.
“We’re very fortunate. Marist played a great game. JeTaun was unbelievable. I’ve got to give it to her. She did a great job.
With Page weaving and driving and stopping and popping for 10 points, Marian raced to an 18-7 lead after one quarter. Rouse and Bolton, however, rallied the RedHawks to within 24-20 at halftime.
Playing at a high-intensity level, the two teams made it a dogfight the rest of the way, with Rouse (10 points) and Page (eight) doing the bulk of the scoring in a fourth quarter in which neither team led by more than three.
“This was the toughest loss, the toughest heartbreak, I think, that Marist [girls basketball] has had in 11 years,” RedHawks coach Mary Pat Connolly said. “It’s just too bad for our seven seniors that it ended that way.
“But, hey, they left it all on the floor. It just came down to one shot.”