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Girls Basketball: Reapers' rally comes up short in regionals

Plano's Kyla Waller (left) rips the ball away from Sandwich's Jaylynn Vana (right) during a girls varsity basketball game at Plano High School on Thursday, February 8, 2018. Steven Buyansky - For Shaw Media
Plano's Kyla Waller (left) rips the ball away from Sandwich's Jaylynn Vana (right) during a girls varsity basketball game at Plano High School on Thursday, February 8, 2018. Steven Buyansky - For Shaw Media

SYCAMORE – MaKenzie Vann, one by one, went down the bench and gave a two-handed high five.

She didn't hang her head. None of the Plano girls did, really.

Time just ran out.

The Reapers stormed back from a 16-point fourth quarter deficit in Monday's Class 3A Sycamore Regional game with Sandwich, but couldn't quite close the deal.

Vann and fellow starter Maddie Jude both fouled, and Sandwich hung on for a 46-42 win.

"I think we would have got 'em, if we had a couple more minutes," said Vann, a junior. "It was the pressure of the game, for sure. Most of the young girls, this is their first [playoff game]."

Jude scored 11 points, Vann added nine and Lexi Tisberger grabbed 13 rebounds for Plano (16-11), which shot just under 27 percent (16-for-60) for the game.

The Reapers beat Sandwich, co-champs of the Interstate Eight Conference, three times during the regular season. For almost a half Monday, it looked like more the same. Plano led throughout almost the entire first half.

"You win three games against a team by five, three and three, it really comes down to we got one or two more breaks than they did. Tonight, they got the breaks," Plano coach John Chernick said. "There's nothing you can be ashamed about, no reason for the girls to hand their heads."

Teams with size, at times, have been Plano's kryptonite this year.

It was certainly the case Monday.

Sandwich freshman post Josie Ness had the night of her young career, with 19 points and 23 rebounds. She scored five of Sandwich's last seven points of the first half to give her team a 21-20 halftime lead, then scored 12 of her 19 points in the tide-turning third quarter.

Ness made all six of her shots in the quarter. She'd catch the ball in the lane, and drop in short jumpers or go to the basket.

"She's a freshman, but I'm sorry I want to check her driver's license. She looks like she's 21 or 22 years old out there with the physicality," Chernick said in half-jest. "We are undersized, and we don't have a lot of depth at the post position, especially with height. If we don't defend it properly, if we don't put pressure on the guards, it's awful tough for our post players to hang in there with taller kids."

Plano trailed 44-28 with less than six minutes in, but mounted a furious rally with its pressure defense that forced 35 turnovers. Kyla Waller's basket closed the gap to 46-42 with under a minute left, but after a Sandwich turnover Plano missed a 3-pointer to draw closer.

"We didn't play our best, but [Sandwich] played hard, played physically and made shots when they needed to," Chernick said. "All the credit to them."

Chernick, in defeat, gave his team its due.

The Reapers won 16 games, contended for the I-8 title, and reached the conference tournament finals. They did so, despite missing their best player MaKayli Vann for 17 games, and the last 15 of the season, with a shoulder injury.

"The 16 wins is nice, but the fact that we competed in 26 of 27 games sticks with me," Chernick said. "Other than the Peotone game we didn't tlose a game by more than 10 points all year. These girls have nothing to be ashamed of. I love them and care about them more than they'll ever know. These girls really deserve to know how much I appreciate the effort they gave every night. Hopefully we can use this as a building block."

Indeed, every Plano girl that played Monday will return next year.

"I'm more excited for next year with everybody returning," Vann said. "Everything we messed up this year we'll work on for next year."

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