VILLA GROVE | It was as much a rubber game as it was a rematch.
Yes, Times No. 2 Marian Catholic topped Rolling Meadows for the Class 4A state title last season, 48-47. But, earlier in the schedule, the Mustangs handed the Spartans their only loss of the season, 61-55 at the Montini Classic.
So, when the teams faced off Monday at the 24th Annual McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook High School — Rolling Meadows returning five starters from the title game, Marian bringing back three — one could argue it was a tiebreaker.
But no one did.
After the Spartans played brilliantly in dismissing the Mustangs 75-59, it was clear last year doesn't apply.
"This is a totally different team from last year, a different coach," Marian point guard Teniya Page said. "We've got a lot more shooting ability, more spot-up shooters, more versatility."
Veterans still led the Spartans. Ashton Millender tied a career-high set in the state semifinals last season with 29 points and added a team-high seven rebounds. Page had 20 points — making 10-of-10 free throws — and dished out six assists.
And yes, those veterans did recall last season — and the fact that, this season, Marian (15-4) entered the game at No. 6 in the statewide Class 4A rankings, while Rolling Meadows (17-3) was No. 2.
"It meant a lot," Millender said of the win, "just to make a statement to everyone."
"Playing Marian is not easy."
For a time, Rolling Meadows made it appear so. Running out to several transition layups, the Mustangs led 14-11 with 2:11 to play in the first quarter as 2013 Illinois Gatorade Player of the Year scored five of her team-high 20 points.
From there, the Spartans, led by the DePaul-bound Millender, took control.
With her future college coach standing 20 feet from the basket, Millender canned six consecutive field goals as Marian went from a 14-11 deficit late in the first quarter to a 35-25 lead at the three-minute mark of the second. She scored Marian's last seven points of the first quarter, which ended in a tie at 18, and opened the second with a 3-pointer.
"I thought Ashton played a whale of a game, not just offensively," Marian coach Dan Murray said. "She did an outstanding job on (Alexis) Glasgow, another pretty good offensive player, on the other end."
Glasgow, who has committed to Northwestern, scored 11 points. But, she was 3-of-17 from the floor, including 1-of-9 from 3-point range.
The Spartans, led by Page's seven points, pushed their advantage to 16 points in the third. After Rolling Meadows crept to within six, at 57-51, Marian slammed the door with a 12-3 run, eight of those points from Millender.
"We're playing more consistently in all facets of the game," Murray said. "All five girls are playing as one. All five girls understand what we're trying to do on every possession."
BLOOM 65, PICKERINGTON (Ohio) NORTH 60: The Blazing Trojans (8-12) rebounded from a 13-1 deficit to top the Panthers behind 26 points from Danielle King and 20 from Anika Johnson.
King, in just her second game back after missing 13 with a turf toe injury, hit five free throws in Bloom's run of six straight points to close the contest. She also had a steal with six seconds left, denying Pickerington (8-6) a shot at a game-tying 3-pointer.
"To beat a team of the caliber of Pickerington, Ohio, was a big win for us — especially on a big stage in front of a huge crowd in front of many, many college coaches," Bloom coach Ron Newquist said. "It was nice to have my girls step up and finally play up to their potential."