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Z-B girls finally seem ready for huge challenge ahead

Zion's SyerrCunningham (left) shoots as she is being defended by Grayslake North's Brittney Thibeaux (right) JoannGuhl during their regional championship

Zion's Syerra Cunningham (left) shoots as she is being defended by Grayslake North's Brittney Thibeaux (right) and Joanna Guhl during their regional championship game at Grayslake North. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media

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6 p.m. — Rolling Meadows (26-3) vs. Stevenson (20-8)

7:30 p.m. — Palatine Fremd (25-7) vs. Zion-Benton (19-8)

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Updated: March 17, 2013 6:08PM

You could sense at halftime what was about to happen.

Grayslake North hit 7-of-13 three-point shots in the first half of Thursday’s Class 4A regional championship game at home against highly regarded Zion-Benton.

Yet, when the teams headed for the locker room, North was ahead by just 37-36.

Which meant North needed another unreal shooting performance in the second half to win the game.

And thanks to Zion-Benton cranking up the defensive pressure, it didn’t happen.

North was 0-for-10 from behind the arc, and Zion-Benton went on a 20-2 run after trailing 52-48 with 1:15 to go in the third quarter, and that was the ball game.

Zion (19-8) won its third straight regional title, 74-58, to earn a shot at Palatine Fremd (25-7) on Monday in the Libertyville Sectional.

The regional title was the first for senior Syerra Cunningham, who toiled on losing teams at Waukegan for three straight years.

Cunningham had 22 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists against North (26-4).

“I’m so happy for our seniors, especially for Syerra,” said Z-B coach Tanya Johnson. “She’s never won a regional. She was really steady tonight.”

Johnson conceded her team has been like a yoyo — up and down from game to game and even quarter to quarter.

“We’ve gone through a lot. We’ve been up and down all season, but what I love is that I had two freshmen (Krystal Walker and T.T. Maggett each scored eight points) contribute tonight,” the coach said.

“And Keonnia Gentry rebounded like a monster. We just had a really hard time in the first half. We were settling for outside jump shots. We weren’t playing our game. We knew we’d have to turn it up a notch in the second half and they responded.

“Sometimes they don’t, But they did tonight.”

For Grayslake, junior Kendall Detweiler had 19 points, Brittany Thibeaux 16 and Emily Dugan 12.

First-year coach Nate Flannery obviously was happy with the team’s 26-4 season.

“I told the girls that if you wrote that down on the board at the beginning of the year, that would almost sound like an unrealistic goal,” he said.

“Overall, I’m extremely proud of my four seniors. They’ve been here longer than I have. They got things going last year, winning over 20 games and a regional.

“They set the tone for the program. We’re not going away any time soon. We have a lot coming back too.”

Zion’s Cunningham was thrilled with the title. “It feels great to win something I can come back and look at and say ‘I helped win that,’” she said. “I can’t imagine a better group of teammates to have won it with.”

“This season, we’ve played some pretty tough competition. It’s nice to have something to show for it.”

Sam Rodriguez added 19 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists for the winners. Sophomore Mia Yarbrough had eight points and six assists.

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