CARPENTERSVILLE – Huntley junior forward Sam Andrews stepped to the free throw line with an opportunity to lock up the Red Raiders' trip to the Class 4A state semifinals.
With 11 seconds remaining and Huntley holding a three-point lead against Wheaton Warrenville South, Andrews, an 83.4 percent free-throw shooter, watched as her first attempt bounced off the rim. But with a confidence that was on display the entire game, Andrews calmly knocked down her second free throw, giving the Red Raiders a two-possession lead and igniting the lively Huntley fans.
The Tigers had two opportunities to score in the final 11 seconds, but Huntley's defense held strong. Wheaton Warrenville South's desperation 3-pointer fell short as time ran out, setting off a Red Raiders celebration with their 47-43 win for the Dundee-Crown Supersectional title.
The Red Raiders (26-6) make their first state semifinal appearance in school history and play Rolling Meadows (29-3) 6:30 p.m. Friday at Redbird Arena.
"It's a great feeling," Andrews said. "It's unbelievable that we've gotten this far. We knew if we worked really hard as a team we'd get there."
Andrews scored a team-high 17 points. Despite missing two 3-pointers to open the game, Andrews kept shooting and it paid off. She converted four 3-point shots, including two in the third quarter, which gave Huntley its biggest lead of the game, 31-24. Her outside shooting opened up the lane for freshman Ali Andrews, leading to six of her 12 points in the fourth.
Ali Andrews also shined on the defensive end, shutting down Wheaton Warrenville South (29-4) senior forward and Notre Dame signee Diamond Thompson. The 6-foot-2 forward held Thompson to four points and kept her off the boards. Ali Andrews wasn't alone in stopping Thompson and the Tigers as Huntley put together one of its best, complete defensive performances this season.
"Our defense is key in every game," Ali Andrews said. "We knew we had to stop their two best players. ... [Thompson and I] were both playing tough, so it was even matched. It was fun playing against a good player."
From the onset, it was clear buckets would be hard to come by. Huntley was held scoreless through the first five minutes of the first quarter, but its defense kept them in the game by holding Wheaton Warrenville South to four points. Huntley trailed 8-7 after one quarter, however the Red Raiders took control on Bethany Zornow's three-point play less than one minute into the second. Huntley never trailed the rest of the game.
"What an effort by our players," Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. "They just gutted it out for 32 minutes against a really solid Wheaton Warrenville South team. I can't say enough about our defensive effort tonight. It was just fantastic.
"It's a landmark moment for our program to be able to get this far."
Senior guard Haley Ream sparked Huntley's defense, executing the unenviable task of shutting down junior guard and DePaul recruit Meghan Waldron. Waldron finished with a game-high 23 points. Aided by help defense that hedged on ball screens, Ream limited Waldron's open looks and often forced her into tough shots in the lane. Raethz praised Ream's ability to contain Waldron, which caused the Tigers' offense to scuffle.
"I knew she started their whole offense and that I had to contain her," Ream said. "At practices before I had actually guarded my coach two straight practices to get me going and how I needed to defend her and that helped a lot. I came out tonight and just tried to do the best that I could."