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Warren upends Rolling Meadows
By Patricia Babcock McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/17/2012 12:58 AM

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Following the regional championship game that was held on their own court Thursday night, the seniors on the Warren girl's basketball team created a circle at mid-court and positioned themselves on their stomachs so that their heads were in the middle and they were all facing each other.

They were laughing and whispering, and giggling and soaking in the moment.

"We were all telling each other how much we love each other and how much fun we have playing together," Warren senior center Jessica Prince said. "We just all wanted to have that time on the court together because for the seniors, this was our last time playing on this court together."

It won't be the last time the Blue Devils play together for good, though.

At one point during the seniors' circular tribute, someone placed Warren's freshly earned regional championship plaque in the middle.

Sixth-seeded Warren used a balanced offensive attack strong inside play and some hot outside shooting to stage an upset of No. 2 Rolling Meadows, 50-39.

The Blue Devils, who improve to 21-8 and win their first regional title since Ms. Basketball Sarah Boothe was a senior four years ago in 2008, advance to Monday's sectional semifinal at Palatine. They'll face surprising Wheeling, a 58-32 winner over Prospect at the Libertyville regional.

"We came out ready to go," said Warren senior guard Alexis Leneau, who scored a game-high 19 points, including 3 three-pointers. "All day it's been the anticipation, the build-up. (Warren) hasn't been in this position in a long time. We've kind of been in rebuilding mode since my freshman year and each year, we make steps in the right direction but then we always fall short (in the tournament). I couldn't let us fall short again, so I kind of stepped up my game."

Leneau scored 7 second-quarter points to keep Warren within striking distance at halftime. Higher-seeded Rolling Meadows took just a 2-point lead (25-23) into the locker room.

Leneau stayed hot in the third quarter with 7 more points and she got some help from Prince, who kept chipping away at Rolling Meadows' tough-to-crack zone. Prince somehow got freed up for some nice moves in the paint and scored 6 third-quarter points to help Warren build a 40-34 by the end of the period.

"I just kept the ball high so that the little guards couldn't get it and I made sure I was strong going to the basket," said Prince, who finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds. "Our coach (John Stanczykiewicz) told us that we really had nothing to prove since we were the lower seed and they were the higher seed and they had to show that they were better than us. We came in with that mentality and took advantage of it."

Rolling Meadows looked like a well-deserving No. 2 seed early on. The Mustangs hit 3 first-half 3-pointers and forced Warren into 7 turnovers. Alexis Glasgow scored 8 first-half points for Rolling Meadows, including 2 three-pointers.

But then the Blue Devils reeled off a 15-5 start to the third quarter to go up 38-30. The lead ballooned to as many as 10 points early in the fourth quarter.

"We really killed ourselves," Rolling Meadows coach Todd Hatfield said. "I saw us missing shots we haven't missed all year, wide-open layups, front ends of one-and-ones. I just haven't seen us miss shots like that. It was frustrating.

"As our shots didn't fall, you could see us getting more and more frustrated."

The Mustangs, who finish with a 25-5 record, are trying their best to keep a positive perspective about a season that still ranks as one of the best in school history. Hatfield says his team broke just about every record in the books this season, and that's with three sophomores in the starting lineup.

"It's really disappointing," said sophomore guard Jackie Kemph, who paced Rolling Meadows with 12 points. The Mustangs also got 11 points from sophomore guard Alexis Glasgow. "We just let it get out of hand. But I'm excited about the future."

So is Stanczykiewicz. His team is one of the hottest in the area, having posted a 17-2 record since Christmas.

"Any time a team has confidence, they're a dangerous team and I think our kids have confidence right now," said Stanczykiewicz, who also got 9 points out of senior guard Amanda Barger. "I like the way we're playing and the way we're playing together. We had an epiphany somewhere around Christmas. We made a few tweaks, a few adjustments and the kids have gone with it and they've played well and to their strengths.

"We're picking the right time of year to play well."