ROCKFORD – It was all about maintaining composure.
Throughout Tuesday night’s Class 4A Rockford East Sectional semifinal, the Huntley girls basketball team had played through it all. They had flourished on offense, found a way to play through a second quarter when the Red Raiders couldn’t manage to score for nearly 61⁄2 minutes and had given up what appeared to be a comfortable lead.
But even through all that and once Huntley found a way to keep its cool when things appeared to be slipping away, the final result – a 46-37 win over Harlem – took care of itself. And with that, what has become a historic Huntley postseason run will continue Thursday.
With the victory, the Red Raiders will face Streamwood at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for the right to advance to next week’s Dundee-Crown Supersectional.
“We just had to keep our composure and run our offense and keep everything smooth,” said freshman center Ali Andrews, who led Huntley with 21 points. “We just had to play our game and stay strong.”
Huntley did all of that.
After Harlem began the second half on a 9-1 run to take a two-point lead, Huntley – which had struggled to build on its strong start in the second quarter, responded.
Despite only hitting 12 field goals, the Red Raiders continued to find Andrews, who was strong in the post, playing through the frustration of Harlem’s physical style of play.
Andrews, along with sister Samantha, accounted for 35 of Huntley’s 46 points. And after watching its six-point halftime lead disappear, Huntley produced a run of its own to build an eight-point lead by the end of the third quarter.
From there, it was just seeing to the little things.
That started at the free-throw line where the Red Raiders connected on 18 of 27 attempts. Throughout their third-quarter surge and into the fourth, Huntley made the most of its free-throws and finally pulled away to advance to Thursday’s sectional final.
“We took a punch,” Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. “We did the things we needed to do - we settled down offensively, we got some looks inside and I thought the kids did a nice job of knocking down their free throws.”
Now, Huntley takes the next step.
“We just have to take one step at a time,” senior Haley Ream said. “We can’t worry about making it to supersectionals - we just have to stay composed and play as a team.”