ORLAND PARK | After Marian Catholic won its 14th straight regional title Thursday with a 58-25 win over Sandburg, Spartans coach Dan Murray was asked if he didn't want to blow the streak in his first year.
"That's kind of a loaded question, don't you think?" he said with a smile as he cradled the championship plaque. "Of course, you never want to be that person. Obviously, there are a lot of expectations at this school with the success of the program under both coach (Annie) Byrne and coach (Shannon) Reidy. They did a fantastic job.
"Just to be able to continue and have the team experience success is something I take pride in."
His team clearly takes pride in defense, as well, as the Spartans (24-4) broke away from the Eagles (16-14) by smothering the hosts' offense in the second and third quarters.
The Eagles had just two turnovers and held an 8-4 advantage over the game's first six minutes. But from that point through the end of the third quarter, the Spartans, forced 19 more Eagles turnovers and moved out to a 53-22 lead heading into the final period.
It helped that Teniya Page (19 points, four assists, three steals) settled down after an uncharacteristic five-turnover first half.
"I knew I was making stupid passes," she said. "I was looking to get to my (shooting) area, and I was getting there. But I was also jumping in the air to make passes, which is bad fundamentally."
From the 0:55 mark of the first quarter until intermission, Page scored 12 of Marian's 22 points. She added six more in the third, but that frame really belonged to Ashton Millender.
Millender scored 13 of her team-high 22 points and made her first five field goal attempts in the period, setting the tone by draining a 3-pointer on a set play to start the half.
"We have to win the first two minutes of the third quarter, that's what we always say," Millender said.
That Millender and Page scored so many of the Spartans' points was by design, Murray said.
"That might be something we discussed," he said. "But it's a team game. A lot of kids do a lot of things in our offense. They're executing, spreading the floor, setting screens."
Marian next meets Lincoln-Way East (22-5), a 50-22 winner over Lincoln-Way North at North's regional, in Tuesday's 8 p.m. sectional semifinal at Bloom Trail.
Katie Sedor came off the bench to add seven points. Kauai Bradley had team highs of seven rebounds and five steals.
Sandburg was led by Sam Youngwirth's 11 points.