CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Ninety seconds into the second quarter, Marian Catholic coach Dan Murray stared down the sideline at Ashton Millender, his offensive centerpiece.
"Hey," he roared at the DePaul-bound senior, "you've got to get aggressive!"
Millender promptly launched a 3-point attempt. And missed. Two minutes later she was on the bench with her second foul, an 0-for-3 half, plus one free throw in two attempts.
No matter. Millender scored 23 of her game-high 24 points in the second half, including 12 of Marian's 14 points in overtime, as the Times No. 2 Spartans escaped the Class 4A Bloom Sectional with a 67-62 win over Oak Lawn. It marked Marian's 10th sectional crown in 13 seasons for the defending state champs.
Marian (26-4) advances to play Edwardsville (28-1), which won its own sectional with a 49-44 decision over Bradley-Bourbonnais, at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Illinois Wesleyan Supersectional. Oak Lawn finished the season 28-2.
"Ashton had a rough start — we didn't do a very good job of letting her get involved," Murray said. "She stepped up big in overtime. You could tell she wanted the ball, she wanted to make plays. … And she did a fantastic job of hitting clutch free throws."
Millender hit all seven free-throw attempts in the extra session. She also made both her shots from the floor, including a 23-foot 3-pointer to answer the opening bucket of overtime that gave Oak Lawn its first lead since late in the first quarter.
Oak Lawn trailed 53-46 with 1:26 to play in the fourth quarter, but LaTondra Brooks (23 points) nailed a 3-pointer and four free throws — the last pair with seven seconds left — to force overtime.
Millender's overtime trey followed another Brooks bucket to open the extra session. Brooks and teammate Jannah Mahmoud (16 points, 12 rebounds), along with Marian's Teniya Page (15 points) fouled out in overtime, leaving Millender as the only pure scorer on the floor.
Still, the deep trey was a remarkable shot for Millender to take, considering her first half.
"I guess it was just one of those days," Millender said. "I just keep shooting it, and talk to myself. I've got to stay confident."
Murray hoped Marian's difficulty in its 13th straight win would be a confidence builder.
"I don't think that's a bad thing," he said. "We haven't been in a whole lot of close games. Until tonight, our whole winning streak has been by double digits."
Marian, which has relied mostly on Millender and Page, got major contributions from Kauai Bradley (11 points, eight rebounds) and Dajhae Mullins (10 points, 13 rebounds).
Bradley had the only non-Millender points in overtime, hitting a pair of free throws, while Mullins scored Marian's first and last field goals of regulation, and rebounded the missed Oak Lawn free throw that could have tied the game with 13 seconds left in overtime.
"For a while there, I felt like Dajhae was the only kid we had on the boards," Murray said.
"From the beginning of the year," Mullins said, "coach has told us the only way we can lose is if we don't rebound."
Consider Millender's bounce-back second half Exhibit A.