NORMAL – The Huntley girls basketball team has a way of proving people wrong, even in defeat.
While Huntley’s Class 4A state semifinal performance against Rolling Meadows will go down as a 61-44 loss, in no way does that fully explain – or give credit to – what the Red Raiders accomplished Friday night at Redbird Arena.
Few people outside of Huntley believed the Red Raiders had a legitimate chance to knock off the Mustangs. Yet for three quarters Huntley showed why it ripped off five straight postseason wins to make its first appearance at state.
Defensively, the Red Raiders held a team that entered averaging 69.8 points a game to one of its lowest outputs this season. Eighteen of those points came in the fourth, when Huntley was gassed and in foul trouble. Offensively, they managed to control the tempo most of the night and avoid turning the basketball game into a track meet.
No, the score doesn’t tell the full story of a Huntley team that trailed by only two points at halftime and found itself tied with the Mustangs early in the third quarter. This was a Rolling Meadows unit that beat Cary-Grove by 50 points and Johnsburg by 39 points this season and scored more than 81 points eight times.
“We can’t hang our heads,” senior guard Haley Ream said. “Playing for the championship game would be nice, but even to make it down here is a great opportunity, and third or fourth place is just as good. We’ve had the opportunity to play for two more weeks than everyone else got to play, so I think we just need to play our best. It’s going to be our last game together, win or lose.”
Understandably, there’s disappointment that a state title is unattainable this season. Putting together a respectable and worthy effort doesn’t erase the pain of a tough loss. However, this should only fuel the fire in the seven Red Raiders that will return next season. That includes four of Huntley’s five starters, including juniors Sam Andrews and Bethany Zornow and freshman Ali Andrews.
Of course, there are moments from Friday’s loss that will be hard to forget – the unforced turnovers that led to easy, fast-break points for Rolling Meadows or the missed, open looks. But the future is bright for Huntley.
“The great thing about tomorrow is two teams get an opportunity to finish their season with a win and it’s something that we talked about in the locker room postgame,” Raethz said. “Let’s finish off our season with a win. This has been a great run and nothing should be taken away from us and what we’ve done and what we’ve accomplished so far.”
• Write to Meghan Montemurro at email@example.com.