NORMAL, Ill. -- The truth is when Whitney Young walked off the court victorious over Bolingbrook at the Hinsdale super-sectional on Monday it essentially won the Class 4A state championship.
Whitney Young knew it. It's upcoming competition knew it. The IHSA knew it.
Yet, it wasn’t as if the Class 4A state tournament could be called off and the trophy be mailed to Whitney Young. The Dolphins still had to go through the formality of winning two more games before being officially crowned champions. Plus, someone still had to play for second place.
Whitney Young did as it was required and on consecutive days left no doubt how much of a gap there was between itself and the rest of the state. The Dolphins first rolled to a 24-point win over Bartlett in the state semifinals Friday and then defeated Edwardsville 63-51 in the championship on Saturday.
The victory Saturday completed an undefeated season for Whitney Young. Thirty-four games up. Thirty-four games down. The Dolphins became the first team to go unbeaten in the state since Peoria Richwoods went 38-0 in 2004-05.
It was Whitney Young’s second girls basketball state championship. The Dolphins also won it in 2008 and was the runner-up to Bolingbrook in 2009 and 2010.
“I’m sure this will go down in history,” Whitney Young coach Corry Irvin said. “This is probably one of the best teams in Illinois history. It’s good for the program. It’s good for the school. I’m really proud of the girls and everything they’ve done this year.”
Whitney Young did give Edwardsville a glimpse of hope early and late into Saturday’s championship.
The Dolphins only led Edwardsville 6-4 after the first five minutes of the game passed, but they found their groove soon after. They closed the first quarter on a 10-2 run and extended their lead to a 34-12 by halftime.
Edwardsville also made a final push in the fourth quarter and narrowed what had been a 20-point lead to the final margin of 12 points.
“We had a letdown,” Irvin said of the second half. “I thought we lost focus for a little bit, but I guess we had enough of a lead. It’s kind of tough to keep them focused when you have a lead like that.”
Dolphins junior Linnae Harper led the first-half charge. Despite giving up six and eight inches to Edwardsville’s twin towers of 6-2 Emmonnie Henderson and 6-4 Leigh Kesper, Harper nearly went for a double-double in the first half alone. She had seven points and 11 rebounds at halftime and finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds.
“It is a championship game, so we tried to go out with a bang and make history,” Harper said.
Whitney Young’s other usual suspects also played a hand in the win. McDonald’s All-American selection Janee Thompson had 12 points, and Alexis Lloyd had nine points. Taylor Brame also contributed 10 points off the bench.
Ashia Jones had a team-high 18 points and 11 rebounds for Edwardsville (34-2).
In the third-place game, Bartlett’s Lia Palmer sank two free throws with 1.0 seconds left in overtime to give the Hawks a 61-59 win over Loyola.
Palmer had 16 points and 14 rebounds. Kristin Conniff (21 points) and Haley Videckis (15 points) also contributed for Bartlett (32-2). Michelle Ricolcol (17 points) and Kathleen Stralka (12 points) led Loyola (26-9).