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St. Bede’s Mo Dean and Lydia Stariha remembered the pain of coming up short in last year’s regional title game.
The Lady Bruins seniors made sure it wouldn’t happen again.
Dean scored 11 of her game-high 17 points in the second half and Stariha made 7-of-10 fourth-quarter free throws as the Lady Bruins made up for last year’s regional final loss Thursday with a 43-38 victory over Marquette to win the Class 2A Hall Regional title.
“Words can’t even describe my feelings right now,” said Dean, who exited the contest with one minute left to a standing ovation and a chant of “We want Mo!” from the Bruin student section. “I was crying on the bench. I’m so excited. I can’t even put it into words.”
With the victory, St. Bede advances to the Class 2A Somonauk Sectional semifinal where the Lady Bruins play at 6 p.m. Monday against Aurora Christian, which won the Wilmington Regional with a 49-43 win over Seneca.
The 6-foot-3 Dean — who shared a team-high eight rebounds — opened the second half with back-to-back post buckets, and classmate Whitley Funsfinn added a pair of free throws to set the stage for a 12-0 St. Bede rally out of the locker room.
Junior guard Laura Sickley accounted for the final six points of the run. After she was fouled, Sickley knocked down three-straight free throws and — after drawing another foul — added a three-point play to put St. Bede up 36-22 with 3:22 left in the third quarter.
Marquette finally managed to get on the second-half scorebook with 3:02 left on a baseline jumper from Angela Evola.
However, Dean responded with her own three-point play, and St. Bede entered the fourth quarter with a 39-27 lead.
Two free throws from Marquette’s Kendall Kaufmann in the opening moments of the fourth quarter cut the SBA lead to 10, but the Lady Crusaders were unable to whittle the lead down to single digits as Stariha made sure the Lady Bruins stayed on top by making 7-of-10 free throws down the stretch.
“It means a lot (to win the regional),” Stariha said. “It was a goal since the beginning of the year and we put in the work. We had a lot of tough games and we had to come back and fight through injuries. It just means a lot to come out and win it.”
Stariha finished with 11 points — all of which came on 11-for-20 shooting from the free throw line — and added five rebounds.
Sickley also scored 11 points, while Miranda added eight. Funsfinn chipped in six points and tied Dean with a team-high eight rebounds.
St. Bede coach Tom McGunnigal said it was “fantastic” to see his squad hoist the regional title plaque after an up-and-down season.
“These girls worked so hard for it,” he said. “It’s been a struggle with injuries and everything like that. I’ve had a lot of teams who’ve worked for it, earned it and got it. These guys really deserved it. They deserved to come out on top like this at the end of the season.
Kaufmann and senior guard Marissa Gama finished with nine points apiece to lead the Lady Crusaders (18-10), while senior forward Angela Evola registered eight points.
Senior forward Riley Bongartz and Kaufmann each had a team-high five rebounds.
“First, you’ve got to give St. Bede credit,” Marquette coach Todd Hopkins said. “The second half they played a lot better than us. I want to give them credit and wish them the best of luck next week.
“What I thought the biggest difference in the game was in the second half — and give Gunni (McGunnigal) credit — they penetrated (our zone) and then we came and helped and they dumped off to Dean. That’s what got things going. We knew when we tried to go with a zone against them to try and bottle up Dean that we were going to leave people open. But I don’t think their outside shooting hurt us. Their defense was tough and we for some reason just didn’t execute like we should have in the second half.”
The loss brings an end to the careers of Marquette seniors Bongartz, Gama, Evola and Allison Taylor.
“I told (the team) in the locker room that they had nothing to be ashamed of,” Hopkins said. “The effort was there. They just were better than us in the second half tonight, period. But I’m proud of them. I’m proud to coach them.”
Notes: Bureau Valley’s Nicole Bornsheuer knocked down eight 3-pointers to advance in the 3-point shootout. Also advancing were Hall’s Ellen Herrmann (7), St. Bede’s Sickley (7) and Raley Mauck (5), who did not play Thursday due to ongoing injury issues. … The regional title was the seventh for McGunnigal in his tenure as SBA coach and his first since 2010-11.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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