ORLAND PARK | Everything was falling into place for Marian Catholic early in the fourth quarter of its Class 4A sectional semifinal game against Marist.
Spartan Ashton Millender had just connected on her third 3-pointer of the night, pushing her team up by five points.
Then everything fell apart. Marist, displaying the power and finesse that has carried it through a fantastic season, went on an 18-point run, en route to a 63-49 victory at Sandburg.
Spartans center Megan Walsh, saddled with four fouls most of the second half, pinpointed the implosion.
"We just tried to rush things," Walsh said. "We tried to get it over with before it was over. We got too rushed, too nervous."
Every missed shot or turnover seemed to lead to a Marist basket until JeTaun Rouse's steal and score tied the game at 46 with 6:57 left. Leah Bolton's short jumper gave the RedHawks, who trailed by 12 points midway through the second quarter, the lead they wouldn't relinquish.
The play that encapsulated the run was Claire Ryan's steal from Brianna Morrison with 2:39 left to play. Ryan ripped the ball away at midcourt, scooting in for a layup while Morrison was still getting up.
Walsh thought the Spartans (21-12) were playing better than they had against Marist in December, when the RedHawks scored a four-point victory.
"We kept with 'em," Walsh said, thinking back to five ties and as many lead-changes.
Millender led Marian with 16 points, with Amber Williams adding 13, but Williams was blanked in the final quarter and Millender was 0-of-4 from the field after the 3-pointer to open the final eight minutes.
Marist was boosted by the return of Asianna Bey in the final quarter. Like Walsh, she had been booked for four fouls in the first three quarters. Unlike Walsh, who fouled out in the final minute, Bey came up big at the finish, with six of her eight points down the stretch.
"We didn't play that well in the third quarter without Asianna," Marist's Randall Butler said.
Marist (31-1), led by Bolton's 25 points, plays the winner of Tuesday's semifinal between Homewood-Flossmoor and Lincoln-Way East in Friday's sectional final.
Before the game, Millender won the 3-Point Shootout, making 10-of-15 baskets, to advance to Thursday's round.