Parker's 32 caps record state tourney scoring spree

Posted March 09, 2003

NORMAL - The two best teams in Illinois and the two best players.

It's what state championship games are made for and Saturday night's Class AA title game at Redbird Arena didn't disappoint one bit.

Naperville Central junior Candace Parker and Fenwick senior Erin Lawless had provided the preview to Saturday's showdown when they battled in the championship game of the Dundee-Crown Christmas tournament. In that 55-48 Naperville Central overtime win, Parker scored 22 points and had 18 rebounds while Lawless had 21 points. It was Parker's rebound and coast-to-coast drive that sent the game into overtime where the Redhawks prevailed.

And Saturday night, in a game that was incredibly deja vu of that December meeting in Carpentersville, it was clear from the onset that the 6-foot-3 Parker and the 6-2 Lawless would again be the focal point of their team's chances for a state championship.

In fact, the two good friends almost acted like they were home instant-messaging each other as they combined for the game's first 22 points, matching each other basket for basket through the game's first 4 minutes, 25 seconds.

By halftime, Parker had 17 points on 8-of-11 shooting and Lawless 14 points on 6-of-9 from the floor.

But it figured the best two players on the floor would dominate the game. Parker came in averaged 24.1 points per game; Lawless came in at 21.6. In the state tournament, they were clearly the dominators, especially shooting the basketball. Parker was 37 of 63 in the three games at Redbird while Lawless was 30 of 45.

And while their teammates got more involved in the second half Saturday, it was again Parker's play in the extra session - as it was in December - that lifted the Redhawks to a 63-59 win and their first state title. In setting three individual state tournament records, Parker scored 6 of her game-high 32 points in the OT.

"Candace played a great game," Lawless said through her postgame tears. "It was just a case where the better team won I guess."

Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum sang the praises of both stars.

"Erin Lawless is a tremendous player and the Big Ten better watch out because Purdue has a great player coming in," he said. "They're both great players, they're great kids and they're great competitors. What else can you say? I know Candace better than Erin, of course, and I can tell you that Candace is just a fantastic young lady."

Parker, who will write her own ticket to the college of her choice, also gave Lawless, who had 22 points in the game, a ringing endorsement for the future.

"She played a great game and she's a fantastic player," Parker said. "I wish her all the success in the world at Purdue. I think she'll do great there, I really do."

But in the end Saturday, it was Parker and Naperville Central who had all the success in the world.

And the state championship trophy to prove it.