The Raiders (25-3) scored the first 27 points of the game as their stifling defense did not allow Central to score until Amelia Michalski made a free throw with 22.7 seconds left in the quarter. And despite their starting five netting just over a quarter of playing time, Bolingbrook cruised to a 73-27 victory.
“This was a good way to start the postseason,” Bolingbrook coach Chris Smith said. “You can’t get the second win until you get the first one.
“The first group did a good job on defense, and we got good leadership out of our seniors.”
Senior Persais Williams was quiet on offense in the first half, scoring just two points. But she came to life in the second half, scoring eight points early in the third quarter before heading to the bench for the rest of the game. Classmate Yahaira Bueno shook off a scoreless first half and scored eight points, including a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter.
“We know we can’t look ahead,” Williams said. “We try to take it one game at a time. Coach Smith preaches defense, and he’s been preaching it all four years I have been here. We like to get offense from our defense.
“We also are a very unselfish team, and we like to share the ball. After not making it to state last year, we kind of have a chip on our shoulder this year. Last year, everyone expected us to make it and we didn’t, so this year everyone is talking about this team or that team and not talking about us. We are using that as motivation.”
When Smith sent in a lineup change midway through the first quarter, the Raiders still had plenty of talent on the floor. Trinity Jones, a 6-1 sophomore, entered the game, as did Kennedy Williams. The two combined to score 18 points in the first half and finished as the Raiders’ leading scorers with 16 and 14 points, respectively. Jones also had a team-high seven rebounds.
“Trinity is a nice piece to bring off the bench,” Smith said. “She is still working into complete shape from an injury, and it’s nice to get all the other girls significant minutes in a playoff game. You never know when they might be needed down the road, so to get them time is crucial.”
After scoring just one point in the first quarter, Plainfield Central (2-23) scored 13 in the second, with Michalski scoring eight on a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of free throws. Freshman Mia White also made a 3-pointer before halftime. Michalski led Central with 14 points, while Na’Veyuh Junior had six.
“We knew the caliber of players Bolingbrook has, and they hit us early,” Central coach Timothy Torkelson said. “They set the tone with their ball pressure early. We did all we could, but they are very good.
“Our girls never gave up. That’s what I have told them all year. It didn’t matter if they were down 20 or 30 points, they never gave up. Other coaches have complimented them on that as well. We brought up a couple of freshmen, and we had a good freshman team, so the future looks pretty bright.”
Bolingbrook led 39-14 at halftime and pushed the lead to 65-23 at the end of the third quarter, which invoked the running clock for the entire fourth quarter. The Raiders play at 7 p.m. Thursday in the regional championship game against the Plainfield South-Naperville North winner.