4A boys' basketball state semifinal recap: Moline 50, Downers Grove North 36

Mar. 11—The top player was ... Iowa signee , who controlled the game like few players throughout the course of the weekend have. The senior exploded for 21 points, six rebounds, a block and a steal. Harding went on a tear to start the game, scoring 14 points in the first quarter alone on the strength of a trio of three-pointers and a 5 for 8 mark from the field overall. His scoring cooled off somewhat in the later quarters, but the 17-11 lead he helped build in the early stages was something the Maroons never looked back from en route to booking their place in the state title game.

The key moment was ... believe it or not, it wasn't Harding's stretch at the start of the game. Too easy. Instead, Moline's prowess at the free-throw line deserves credit for sealing the win. The Maroons didn't make a field goal from 6:27 left in the second quarter until 1:05 to go in the third quarter but did hit nine free throws within that stretch. Grant Welch didn't score until the fourth quarter but proceeded to clinch Moline's win by making seven of his eight free throws in the final quarter. The Maroons more than met the moment at the charity stripe by going 29 of 33 at the line.

By the numbers ... Moline only took 19 shots from the field but connected on nine of them to finish the game with a 47 percent shooting mark. But while the Maroons had free throws to supplement their lack of attempts from the field, the Trojans were an ineffective 13 of 40 from the field and only attempted five free throws, though they made four of them. Moline also pulled down 23 rebounds to the Trojans' 15; all but one of the Maroons' boards were defensive.

What Moline said ... "Obviously we got off to a quick start. Brock probably doesn't remember, but his freshman year, I gave him the car keys and I said, 'You're driving us,' and he's driven us for four years. He got us off to a quick start. He gets everybody where they need to go and there's not a better point guard in the state, a better leader in the state, than Brock. I thought that was key and then I thought we've been really good defensively since we got beat by Mt. Carmel ... I thought those were the two keys." — coach Sean Taylor, a Rantoul native

What Downers Grove North said ... "We sure didn't score as many points as we would have liked to, that's for sure. They got out to a pretty quick start and we trailed pretty much the entire game. Hats off to them getting it rolling. In the third (quarter), I think we held them to four points and that was probably our opportunity to crawl back in. We couldn't get into some of the series that we like to get into, they played some pretty good defense. When you struggle that mightily on offense, it's really hard to get it done against some good teams." — coach James Thomas