WOODSTOCK – Whether it was rising to the occasion for a big game or her bright green shoes, Marian Central's Shannon Wuensch had a first quarter she won't soon forget.
Wuensch showed why she is the Hurricanes' all-time leading scorer, as she made five consecutive shots and scored 11 points while not missing a basket in the first quarter Wednesday, and Marian rolled to a 56-45 victory over Richmond-Burton in the semifinals of the Class 3A Woodstock Regional. Marian will face Woodstock North in Friday's championship game.
"We were just so excited to be in the position we are in," Wuensch said. "We knew we had to come out and play a full four-quarters of basketball and we all just had so much energy and everything was going in.
"Once I made a few and the other girls made some, I think we were all just so excited to be clicking and everything was coming together."
Her teammates followed the senior's lead as point guard Alissa Melchionna scored seven in the first quarter, while Hannah Davis and Ellen Koscielniak each contributed four. By the time the first eight minutes were up the Hurricanes led 26-8 on 12 of 19 shooting.
R-B (16-12) was able to muster production inside from Andrea Fox but it didn't seem ready for the Hurricanes (15-11).
The start surprised Marian coach Jacki Budmayr, who was hoping her team could get off to a fast start, but even she couldn't have predicted what happened Wednesday.
"That first quarter, in all my years of coaching, I have never seen a team perform like that," Budmayr said. "We said, 'We have to come out and bury this thing right away.' We knew Richmond-Burton is a really good ballclub and very physical, so we knew we had to get a lead. I just had no idea that we were going to take it that far and that it would be that awesome."
R-B's Andrea Fox scored a team-high 17 points.
"What I was proud of was the way my girls battled," first-year Rockets coach Courtney LuDois said. "We got down early and we could have easily given up and dropped their heads, but they battled to the very end. I couldn't ask for more."
Woodstock North 54, Marengo 40: Judging by how loud the fans were, it was evident from the start the game between Marengo and Woodstock North was important.
The Thunder (17-12) harnessed the moment and played consistently throughout with the solid leadership of point-gaurd Aleecia Braun. Braun controlled the offense and responded well to pressure when the Indians would try to trap the 5-foot-4 senior in the half-court.
"We all look to her as a leader," said Sami Ahr who scored 10 points for the Thunder. "We look to her for guidance on the floor and motivation."
Braun scored 12 points to go with seven assists, and her teammates reaped the benefits of her play, most notably Emma Everly who was a force inside and from beyond the arc – she scored a team-high 15 points.
The Indians (9-20) never held a lead, but they played tough and were led by senior Jessica Villie, who scored 20 points.
After her team started the game down 10-4, Villie made a free throw, then forced two turnovers on the defensive end and converted those into four points, bringing the score to 10-9.
She was also a part of the Indians' surge in the third quarter. Villie scored five points in less than a minute to get within 29-28 but again the Indians couldn't take the lead. The Thunder took a timeout and went on an 11-2 run.
"I thought we played them very well," Indians coach Nick Rode said. "After the first half I knew we came to play and we fed off the fans energy. They brought it tonight too and I think we played the best possible game for them tonight.
"I was hoping we would have enough to get over the hump but we never could just get that lead."