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Fast start carries Cougars

VernHills' Meri Bennett-Swans(center) tries get rebound between North Chicago's Monique Greathouse (left) Justice Moore. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

Vernon Hills' Meri Bennett-Swanson (center) tries to get a rebound between North Chicago's Monique Greathouse (left) and Justice Moore. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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Grayslake North at Lakes

Lake Forest at Zion-Benton

Glenbrook South at Waukegan

Warren at Willowbrook vs. Hinsdale Central

Grayslake Central at Hampshire

Deerfield at Maine West

Maine East at Highland Park

Lake Forest Academy at Culver Military invite


Antioch at Grant

North Chicago at Lakes

Lake Zurich at Zion-Benton

Warren at Lake Forest

Libertyville at Stevenson

Wauconda at Vernon Hills

Palatine at Mundelein

Lake Forest Academy at Culver Military invite



North Suburban Prairie

Grant at North Chicago

Lakes at Wauconda

Vernon Hills at Round Lake

North Suburban Lake

Zion-Benton at Stevenson

East Suburban Catholic

Joliet Catholic at Carmel

Notre Dame at St. Patrick

Central Suburban North

Glenbrook North at Niles North

Maine East at Highland Park

Maine West at Deerfield

Central Suburban South

Niles West at New Trier

Waukegan at Glenbroook South

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Updated: March 19, 2013 3:03AM

Vernon Hills led 10-0 after 132 seconds of play, 21-0 midway through the first period, and 30-5 after one quarter.

But the Cougars (19-2, losses to big schools Stevenson and Trinity) then got their motor stuck in neutral and wound up settling for a 58-44 victory over host North Chicago on Thursday in a North Suburban Conference Prairie Division girls basketball game.

The Cougars finished second to Montini in last year’s state tournament and are working toward a rematch with the three-time defending state champs in the Class 3A state semifinals next month.

Thursday’s fast start was an example of what the Cougars can do to overmatched foes.

Their play in the final three quarters — in which they were outscored 39-28 — was not.

Vernon Hills hit 11-of-14 shots from the field in the first quarter and made just 11 more shots the rest of the way.

“We came out with a lot of intensity which is definitely important against a team like North Chicago,” said junior star Lauren Webb (game-high 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals). “Then, we came out flat for the second and third quarters. We stopped taking our best shots. We can’t let that happen anymore.

“I think we got back into the swing of things to finish the game.”

North Chicago (7-14) never quit and outplayed the Cougars, who were not resting their starters after the first period.

“If (his players) had started with the same intensity that they finished with, they’d be smiling right now,” said Warhawks coach Lawrence Brown. “We’re growing. We’re much better than we started.

“Earlier in the year, we would have lost by 50, the way this game started. A little bit more growth and we could have gotten even closer. They have that belief they can come back against good teams now.”

Monique Greathouse had 11 points to lead the Hawks. Dara Tanner added nine points and seven boards.

Meri Bennett-Swanson had 14 points for Vernon Hills and Sydney Smith had 13 points and five boards.

“Our focus down the stretch is the Prairie Division. We really want to finish division play strong and put ourselves in position to play in the conference championship game,” said Cougars coach Paul Brettner, whose team hosts Wauconda on Saturday.

North Chicago plays Springfield at Young High School in Chicago on Saturday. Freshman Tineesha Coleman is expected to play varsity ball in that contest. Another freshman, Zyaire Strawder started for the Hawks on Thursday and had five points.

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