AURORA – Glenbard South made a good argument about the saying, “It’s not how you start, but how you finish,” during its Class 3A IMSA Regional semifinal against Kaneland on Tuesday night.
The Raiders came out firing on all cylinders, starting and finishing strong in a 74-55 victory.
They will take on Montini, a 61-50 winner over St. Francis, in Friday’s regional final.
“One of my assistant coaches said it was probably one of the best starts he’s seen in two years so we couldn’t have asked for a better start,” Raiders coach Wade Hardtke said. “And that was important for us. We hadn’t played since Wednesday so it was a little time off and a weekend and everything, so I was very happy with the start that we got. They came ready to play tonight.”
Kaneland (7-25), fought to the very end but never made the game a compelling one after falling behind 27-15 after one quarter.
The Raiders lost their pace for a 100-point game soon after that as the Knights were able to keep them composure as coach Russ Zick used four timeouts before the second minute of the second quarter.
“We came out of the chute pretty slow and I didn’t like that at all,” Zick said. “We had turnovers in the first three or four minutes which was really hard to take. We just didn’t get anything done and then we were behind the eight ball right away. We needed to jump ahead and we didn’t do that.”
Glenbard South (22-6) received a career-best performance from Cade Hardtke who scored a personal-best 29 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
“It was a great team effort,” he said. “We honestly have not started that hot in a while. It was a great time to do it, playoff time, with everyone with high adrenalin. I’m not sure if that had something to do it.”
Last year’s loss to St. Francis in the semifinals certainly served as extra motivation, if the Raiders needed any.
“As seniors we didn’t want to do that again,” Cade Hardtke said. “We wanted to come and play to the best of our abilities.”
The Knights cut their deficit to 40-30 at the half, but wouldn’t get any closer than nine points in the second half as they were able to hang around but not piece together a good enough run to put a scare into the Raiders.
“They took a pretty good punch at the beginning and they came back swinging as well,” Wade Hardtke said. “They weren’t going to lay down, that’s for sure. I never felt we were back in control until the last minute and half or whatever it was as scrappy as they are and as well as they shoot from the perimeter.”
Kevin Enright scored 15 points and Nick Plaso added 12 for the Raiders.
Will Cushman led the Knights with18 points while Luke Brost added 10.
“Will Cushman just played a great game,” Zick said. “He’s turning into a really fine varsity point guard, and some of the other kids had tough nights, but that’s the way it goes.”
The Knights concluded their second straight losing season. They haven’t suffered through three straight losing seasons since enduring five straight from 1989-1994.
“It makes me the most proud that the kids only won seven games, but you would never really know it,” Zick said.“They just kept battling. I’ve been around a long time and seen teams lose their focus a little bit, but we didn’t lose it. We practiced well and we played hard. In their own way, they’re cohesive. That’s really a cool thing. That’s the real victory for us.”