CHICAGO | Ashton Millender proved Thursday that practice does make perfect.
With Marian Catholic facing defeat in the Class 4A Mother McAuley Sectional final, Millender launched a shot that she goofs around with at practice all the time.
The junior hit a 25-footer as time ran out to give the Spartans a 54-52 win over Marist for the title.
"I am exhausted, totally," Millender said. "I practice it all the time just in case and I just let it fly. When I shot it, I didn't know if it would go in, but it did."
This came after Marian turned the ball over with 13.4 seconds left and leading 51-50. Marist's JeTaun Rouse hit a 10-footer in the paint with 2.8 seconds left to give her team a 52-51 lead.
Marian (30-1) took a timeout and set up a play which worked in the 2006 Class AA Lincoln-Way Central Sectional final. Kathlyn McClain, who is now a Marian assistant, drilled a game-winner against Joliet Catholic that night.
"That was my play, too," McClain told Millender in the celebratory crowd. "Same play, same result. But mine was from half court."
Byrne called a timeout and had Melanie Ransom lay the ball behind the baseline and then Megan Walsh zipped a pass down the right sideline to an open Millender.
"Oh my gosh, I closed my eyes when she shot," Walsh said. "I knew it went in when I heard the crowd. Man, what a game."
The Spartans won their 17th straight game and will be making their third supersectional appearance in the last four years when they face Peoria Richwoods at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Illinois Wesleyan Supersectional. Last year, Marist beat the Spartans in a sectional final. This year, Marian won 59-44 at Marist in a regular-season game.
The Spartans, who are undefeated in 2013, will be looking to make their first trip to state since 2007 and first under the four-class system.
"I really did not play a good game tonight," Millender said. "When she (Rouse) it that shot, Coach was telling us we got some time left. I was wide open."
Millender finished with seven points. Teniya Page led Marian with 20, while Kauai Bradley had 11. Walsh had nine points and 11 rebounds.
Rouse, a Marquette recruit, had 23 points for Marist (23-10), while teammate and Illinois recruit Leah Bolton scored 22.