ROCKFORD – Huntley girls basketball starting point guard Kayla Barreto wasn’t surprised by teammate Kaitlin Costantino’s strong defensive effort Tuesday night because she sees that type of play almost every day in practice.
The two guard each other in practice and Barreto knows that if she doesn’t try her hardest, her teammate can capitalize on any mistakes, and it’s something Rockford East found out, too.
When she was on the floor, Costantino badgered Rockford East’s athletic guards into poor shots and turnovers. Her play, coupled with a game-high 24 points from Ali Andrews, powered the Red Raiders to a 56-31 win over the fourth-seeded E-Rabs in a Class 4A Jefferson Regional semifinal game.
The win advances top-seeded Huntley (25-3) to Thursday’s championship game against third-seeded Belvidere North, which upset second-seeded DeKalb, 54-43.
“[Costantino] came in for us off the bench and was the best defensive player for us,” Barreto said. “She really had the energy that no one else did and she fueled us.”
The junior guard shut down the E-Rabs’ top scorer, Coriesha Bailey, during important stretches in the third and fourth quarters. Bailey scored a team-high 17 points with her speed, slashing to the basket but Costantino was the answer and was able to keep Bailey in front of her when the two matched up.
“I thought [Costantino] did a great job and played with so much enthusiasm,” Raiders coach Steve Raethz said. “I wish collectively we had the same energy she had during the game because she did a really nice job and gave us a spark.”
After outscoring the E-Rabs 14-4 in the first quarter, the Red Raiders gave back some points before halftime as a string of possessions ended with costly turnovers and missed opportunities.
But coming out of the break, the Raiders played like the team that made a deep state run last season. Huntley was confident on the offensive end, outscoring its opponent 30-13 in the second half and protected the lead with stout defense.
Huntley’s defense forced seven second-half turnovers and held the E-Rabs in several scoring-drought doldrums for separate stretches of five, four and three minutes.
“Coming off the bench I know I have to be ready no matter what,” said Costantino, who added two points. “I just wanted to help the team as much as I could by bringing my energy and trying to get everyone going.”