Chicago Sun-Times
Naperville C. unbeatable
March 9, 2003



Naperville C. 63 - Fenwick 59

NORMAL, Ill.--The Candace Parker Show rolled up against the Erin Lawless Express in the Class AA girls state-championship game Saturday night at Redbird Arena.

And the Candace Parker Show won the state title in overtime, 63-59.

''We just thought it was our game,'' Parker said. ''The feeling is unbelievable, but we always thought that anything is possible. That's why we're here.''

Parker set an IHSA record for most points scored in a Class AA title game with 32--also her uniform number--breaking the mark of 30 that Marshall's Kourtney Walton set in 1999.

Parker also set a Class AA record for most points scored in a state tournament with 92 over three games. Nora Lewis of Peoria Richwoods held the old record with 84 set in 1984. She also set a Class AA record for most field goals made in a state tournament with 37. Three players held the old record of 33.

Naperville Central (35-0) became the first AA girls basketball team to finish the season undefeated since Maine West in 1988.

The last time the two teams met was at the Dundee-Crown tournament championship game. Naperville Central won in OT.

''When we went into overtime, I thought, 'OK, been here, done that before,' '' Parker said.

Naperville senior Courtney Peters (nine points) didn't have good memories of that win at Dundee.

''I wanted to win and I wanted to finish,'' Peters said. ''I fouled out at Dundee-Crown, and I didn't want to be watching the end of this one.''

Tiffany Hudson said too many people doubted Naperville Central's strength.

''But we never doubted ourselves,'' Hudson said. ''Standing here winning it all is indescribable. All these girls are just amazing.''

In front of 3,742 fans, Naperville won the rematch in the overtime period when Parker scored to give the Redhawks a 57-55 lead. Fenwick couldn't seem to get a good shot, and Naperville never trailed. Parker scored six points in the overtime period.

Breanne Smilie had two three-point attempts, but both times the ball rolled on top of the rim and fell out. The Friars finally made a trey when Nicole Rivera connected with .3 seconds to play.

''We only lost to one team in the state of Illinois this year,'' said Fenwick coach Dave Power, whose team also lost to Beavercreek, Ohio, at the McDonald's Shootout. ''We figured out how to get to overtime; we just have to figure out how to finish.''

With 18.1 seconds left in regulation, Fenwick took a timeout with the score tied at 53. Rivera inbounded the ball on the left side to Lawless, who was fouled by Parker.

With 10.2 seconds left, Rivera inbounded again to Kristin Heidloff, who was fouled by Hudson. Rivera inbounded the ball yet again to Heidloff, who was fouled again by Hudson. Rivera inbounded for a fourth time to Smilie, who missed a short shot from the left side to send the game into overtime.

Two three-pointers from Rachel Crissy keyed the Redhawks' title. Crissy's first three tied the score at 37 with 3:25 to play in the third. She hit another three with 45 seconds to play in the third for a 40-39 Redhawks lead.

''I definitely thought that and the momentum from the crowd raised us up from being down,'' Crissy said. ''We came back and made a run at them.''

With 2:44 remaining in the game, Heidloff (11 points) made a three, giving Fenwick a 51-50 lead. Elizabeth Marino (12 points) made it 53-50 with a layup, but Parker hit a three with 1:39 to go to tie the score and send the game to overtime.

''It was one of those games where we had it again, and something just wasn't clicking for us there,'' said Lawless, who scored 22 points. ''I don't know if there was one play, but every little turnover, every little mistake is going to make a big difference in a game like this.''

Fenwick (34-3) built a 37-29 third-quarter lead, but Erica Carter hit a three-pointer and Lawless picked up her third foul at the 5:49 mark. Naperville managed to cut the lead to five.

Lawless sank two free throws and Rivera made a three at the buzzer to give Fenwick a 44-40 lead going into the fourth quarter.

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