Gilmour vs. Crestwood girls basketball: Lancers get two second-half runs to blow out Crestwood in D-II district semifinal

Feb. 28—PENINSULA — Heading into the locker room with a modest 13-point lead against Crestwood in a Division II district semifinal at Woodridge on Feb. 28, Gilmour coach Kevin Byrne encouraged his team to go on a game-changing run in the third quarter.

His Lancers did even better than what their coach asked. They went on TWO of them.

Two 6-0 runs early in the third quarter put some space between Gilmour and Crestwood, paving the way for a 63-32 victory that puts the Lancers (19-5) in the district championship game on March 2 against Aurora. The Greenmen defeated Edgewood, 39-29, in the first game of the night on Feb. 28.

"I said at halftime when we have those 11-12-point leads, if you can make the first 6, 7, 8-point run so it's out to an 18, 19 or 20-point lead, that's a long way back (for the opposing team)," Byrne said. "If they make that urn, it's a six-point margin and it's a game."

So the Lancers went on two 6-0 runs to open up a 38-19 lead and cruise to victory.

First, senior guard Nicci Finazzo stole back-to-back passes and converted them for layups to start the run. She pilfered another steal at the far baseline and lofted a two-hand overhead pass to Elena Kline-Ruminski for a 32-16 lead.

Crestwood hit a shot and a free throw, but then back-to-back 3-pointers by Colleen O'Toole and Katie Puletti made it 38-21. Crestwood spent the rest of the night trying to stay within 20 points of the higher-seeded Lancers, who kept stretching out their lead.

"Coach said in the locker room it depends on who gets the first run," said Finazzo, who had a team-high 14 points. "I tried to lock in there and benefit the team the best I could.

"We really try to turn it up on the defensive end, pressure their key players and get stops on the defensive end of the floor."

Gilmour flirted with blowing the game wide open in the first half, doing much of their damage from beyond the 3-point arc against an active Crestwood defense that didn't allow many looks around the paint.

The Lancers had a 20-5 lead on a Puletti 3 and drive and a Maddie Minotas bucket on an inbounds play before Crestwood ended the half on an 8-6 run.

Gilmour's ability to play from the perimeter — it they did in the first half — and in full-court transition — like they did in the second half — showed the Lancers' versatility.

"I think it's hard to stop us because we can get stops on the defensive end and get out in transition," said Puletti, who had 13 points, "and we have a lot of shooters around the arch who can hit any shot."

Kline-Ruminski hit two free throws off an offensive rebound and Puletti scored on a drive to make it 50-26 early in the fourth, which led to both coaches emptying their benches for most of the final frame.

Next up for the fifth-seeded Lancers (19-5) is a bout against 15th-seeded Aurora. Byrne said his team's rugged schedule, which gave them one of the top RPI ratings in the state in Division II, is a big reason why the Lancers are comfortable in tournament games.

"There's nobody we're afraid to play against or not used to playing against," he said. "We've seen almost every style. We've seen really athletic teams and we've seen less athletic teams that executed well. Hopefully, that'll carry us for a couple more."

The Lancers certainly hope so because while they are no strangers to playing in the district tournament, advancing to the regional level is something none of the current players have done.

They'll get that opportunity at 7 p.m. on March 2 against Aurora.

"Our one goal this year was to win the district game," Finazzo said. "We haven't made it in our three years. We're trying to change it up this year."


Gilmour 63, Crestwood 32