ORLAND PARK | The old basketball cliche proved too true for Crete-Monee on Wednesday night. Games can be won or lost at the free-throw line.
The No. 7-seeded Warriors connected on just 9-of-21 free throws, costing them a 53-49 loss to host and No. 10 Sandburg in the Class 4A Sandburg Regional semifinals.
“Consistently, we’ve really struggled at the free-throw line,” Warriors coach Christina Cobbins said. “We did a heck of a job getting to the line, but our finishing was the issue.”
Indeed, Crete-Monee (20-7) had no trouble dominating the post and drawing fouls, using its obvious size advantage over the Eagles.
However, it’s tough to defend a team that is adept at kicking the ball out to open 3-point shooters, and that’s exactly what Sandburg did time and again. The Eagles made seven 3-pointers on the night — five from Sam Youngswirth — who finished with a game-high 23 points.
“We struggled defending the three today,” Cobbins said. “We missed a lot of screens, we missed assignments, but at the end of the day, we played hard.”
One player that stood out for the Warriors was junior Marsha Howard, who commanded an interior post presence and led Crete-Monee with 18 points.
“I’m excited about the future of Marsha Howard,” Cobbins said. “Really, she’s just scratching the surface. We’ve already seen her take strides from last year to this year in terms of skill set, responsibility and accepting her role on the team. She’s going to be a major part for us next year in both offense and defense.”
The Warriors faced a 27-20 deficit at halftime but eventually clawed back to tie it at 49 with less than 30 seconds to play. However, two free throws from Youngwirth and a basket from Jessica Merino iced the game for the Eagles.
Lindzy Cox added 10 points for Crete-Monee, while Ashley Henry chipped in eight points.
Sandburg will advance to face Marian Catholic at 7 p.m. in today’s regional championship. The Spartans advanced after a 51-15 rout of Richards in the earlier semifinal game.