MIKE NIETO: Spartans dance the dance of champions

2013-03-02T23:15:00Z MIKE NIETO: Spartans dance the dance of championsMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
March 02, 2013 11:15 pm  • 

NORMAL | At Marian Catholic, it will be known as "The Shot."

The shot may have not been heard around the world, but it did give the Spartans their first state girls basketball title and third championship for the school. Marian's football (1993) and baseball (2012) programs also have won state titles.

Kauai Bradley proved you never quit until the final horn goes off.

With Marian Catholic's hopes for a state title all but over, Bradley banked in an 8-footer with less than a second left to give the Spartans a 48-47 thrilling win over Rolling Meadows Saturday night at Redbird Arena.

It was her first game-winning shot in a high school game and she could not have picked a better time. Bradley said she made one in AAU ball a few years ago.

The win avenged the Spartans lone loss — back in December — and they finished the season with a 20-game winning streak.

Teniya Page missed a shot, then Megan Walsh rebounded and missed from the right side. The ball shot into Bradley's arms and she reacted by shooting as soon as she caught it.

"I just prayed it went in," Bradley said. "I didn't think too much, I knew I had to shoot."

It was also keeping confidence. Bradley, whose first name is pronounced like Hawaii, entered the game averaging 6.7 points per game and had just three Saturday before her heroic shot. She did have 10 rebounds before the final play and No. 11 proved to be the key to the win.

"Rebounds and defense is my specialty," Bradley said. "I never, never thought I would be the one to make a game-winning shot. I always figured it would be one of my teammates. ... Man, I am speechless. I really don't know what to say, but we are state champs."

The sophomore never has said much, but we will be hearing a lot from her in the next few years. Same with classmate Page and junior Millender. This is a young team, though they showed maturity this year. Being in a few close games, like the Mother McAuley Sectional final win over Marist, certainly helps.

Walsh said Bradley deserved to be the hero.

"Kauai is one of those who goes hard and it showed tonight," Walsh said. When I missed that shot, I didn't see where it went and I was like, 'Oh man!,' then I saw it (the ball) go to the basket and I just prayed it went in. What a great play by her to be in position to get us the win."

Earlier on Saturday, coach Annie Byrne got an email from her predecessor, Shannon Reidy, wishing good luck and telling her to go out and win it.

"We are all a big family and for Shannon to do that was really a nice thing to do," Byrne said. "You don't know how much that meant to me."

Just like this title means a lot to the school and the kids who made it happen. A business-first team, the Spartans literally let their hair down and sang the words to Queen's "We Are the Champions," and they knew every word of it and were on key. Then they did a dance with the trophy, making sure not to drop it.

Maybe the best moves of the night came after the game for the Spartans.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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