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Marian Catholic's Melanie Ranson (32) looks to drive around Peoria Richwood's Asyia Williams (32) at the Class 4A Super-Sectional and Marian won 56-37 held at Illinois Wesleyan Bloomington,IL. on Monday, February 25, 2013. | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media
Megan Walsh pulled her uniform top up to cover half of her face.
The Marian Catholic senior forward had committed her third and fourth fouls within a span of seconds early in the third quarter of Monday’s Class 4A Illinois Wesleyan Supersectional.
She looked like she was going to cry.
“Yeah, I was,” a much happier and smiling Walsh said after the No. 1 Spartans rolled to a 56-37 victory and Marian’s first trip to state finals weekend since 2006.
“I don’t know… for awhile there just nothing would go our way,” Walsh said. “I just got really frustrated and my emotions got all mixed up. Oh, my gosh… I can’t believe we did this.”
Walsh wasn’t on the bench for long, as Spartans coach Annie Byrne decided to let her play on. Walsh came up aces, finishing with 13 points and six rebounds. Ashton Millender added 12 points, Teniya Page and Melanie Ransom nine points each and Kauai Bradley eight rebounds.
Marian (31-1) will face Young on Friday in a Class 4A semifinal at Illinois State University.
Richwoods (26-7) played without starting 5-foot-10 senior forward Gabby Cunningham, who suffered an injury to her left eye when elbowed during the Knights’ sectional final game against Edwardsville.
Her replacement, 5-9 junior Asyia Williams, scored the first basket of the game. It would be her last.
Marian leaned on the Knights with an aggressive man-to-man defense, and while it led to four fouls in the first couple of minutes, it also created havoc for Richwoods’ offense.
The Knights would shoot just 4-of-23 from the field in the first half, with many rushed drives to the basket resulting in missed layups.
“We just had to stay aggressive,” Millender said. “We couldn’t let the refs get to us. We had to stay aggressive and play our game.”
At the other end, Marian converted early and often on crisp passes, three of which resulted in baskets by Walsh. For the half, the Spartans were 12-of-23 shooting, and went into the locker room with a 25-15 halftime lead.
It was 27-17 with 5:42 left in the third period when Walsh committed her fourth foul. Byrne kept her on the bench for only a couple of minutes, before sending her back out. She immediately responded with an assist on a layup by Ransom.
“You know what? I love that kid,” Byrne said of Walsh. “She has so much experience, so much heart. You’ve got to go with the kids that you’ve got to go with.
“Megan stayed tough, and stayed focused, and did a darned good job.”
Marian led 34-25 after three quarters before Walsh started the fourth with two successful drives as Marian began its pullaway. She finished the game 6-of-7 from the field.