Glenbard South senior Maggie Bair scored six of her 15 points to highlight a 9-1 scoring spurt to end the third quarter, and the Raiders went on for a 35-29 win over Central in the third-place game of the Class 3A state girls basketball tournament Saturday.
After dropping a 58-25 semifinal to Nazareth Academy on Friday, the Cougars bounced back at Redbird Arena with a strong effort. Getting 18 points from senior Faye Meissner, Central (29-5) led 19-15 following a layup by Meissner with 6:42 left in the third quarter.
But the Cougars would score only one point the rest of the period as the Raiders took control of the game. With Bair doing most of the work on the offensive end and senior Sarah Cohen leading the stingy Raiders defense, Glenbard South held Central to just six points over the final 14 minutes of the game.
"When we play well, it's usually our defense which sets the tone. It did again today, and we were able to get back in the game and eventually take control," Raiders fourth-year coach Morgan Kasperek said. "There were a few times when Sarah (Cohen) was guarding Faye Meisser and she (Meissner) made a shot.
"Sarah was playing great defense, but Meissner being one of the best players in the state, made them anyway. Our defense was the difference today."
Unfortunately for coach Nathan Rueter, the Cougars and several hundred fans and students who traveled north from Clinton County to support their team, Meissner was the lone offensive threat Saturday. The 5-foot-8 senior's 18 points came on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. But the rest of the team managed only three baskets and was an ice-cold 3 of 24 for the game.
"People who have seen us play all year know that ... we've had different players step up and make two or three big shots, which have helped us come out on top. Today we didn't do that," Rueter said.
"Also, Maggie Bair is a great player, but with her in foul trouble and out of the game a little bit in the first half, we were up only one at halftime (14-13). In that situation, with the opposing teams best player on the bench, you have to be able to extend the lead to seven or eight points. We all know that if we shoot the basketball better, we had a good chance of winning that game today."
Central got a pair of baskets at the start of the third quarter to take it biggest lead. Meissner made a 3-pointer, then tacked on a layup to put the Cougars ahead 19-15.
But it didn't last, as the Cougars seniors ended a memorable season with consecutive losses.
"I know this isn't the way any of us wanted the season to end," Rueter said. "Before the season, we were hoping to win a (Cahokia) conference title and maybe a regional. We also felt we could win 20 games or more. But to get here and end the season as one of the top four Class 3A teams in the state is a remarkable accomplishment.
"We were fortunate that some things went in favor of us in the postseason. But you guys didn't see what I did every day in practice. The amount of work that this group put in was remarkable. I am just so proud to be associated with this group of seniors."
The Cougars will be honored at 4 p.m. Sunday. The celebration begins at 3 p.m. with a parade through town to the high school.