CARPENTERSVILLE — After refusing to wilt no matter what obstacle was thrown its way, the Wheaton Warrenville South girls basketball squad looked to be a team of destiny this winter.
Overcoming season-ending knee injuries to their second and third leading scorers, the Tigers still managed to capture conference, regional and sectional titles and were just one victory away from a trip to the state semifinals.
But on Monday, the final chapter was written on an unforgettable campaign as Wheaton Warrenville South lost 47-43 to Huntley in the Class 4A Dundee Crown supersectional.
The Tigers, who came in riding a 15-game winning streak, finished the 2012-13 season with a 29-4 record.
"It's been one of those years where you couldn't write it up any other way," said Wheaton Warrenville South coach Rob Kroehnke, himself on crutches due to a leg injury suffered over Christmas break. "They (his players) deserved to go to state. For the seniors it's over but hopefully the juniors and sophomores and freshmen take it upon themselves to take the next step.
"One year ago at the sectional final (a 54-51 loss to Bartlett), we talked about taking the next step. Well, we took one step, we just needed to take two."
Monday's matchup with Huntley, which was coming off its first sectional title in program history, played out the way many had anticipated: a defensive struggle. The Red Raiders led 8-7 after the opening eight minutes and 17-14 at halftime.
"Defensively, we gave up 17 points in the first half," the coach said. "We were right where we wanted to be. But Huntley made it difficult on us to score."
Huntley increased the margin to as many as eight points in the third quarter before Wheaton Warrenville South closed out the period with a pair of baskets. A bucket by Meghan Waldron to start the fourth extended the mini-run to 6-0 and made the score 34-32, but that would be the closest the Tigers would come.
The Red Raiders closed out the game at the free throw line, making nine free throws in the quarter.
"It was a great defensive game," Kroehnke said. "They play really good defense and they hit shots when they needed them and hit free throws when they needed them. That's how you win close games. But our girls battled like we have all year."
Waldron finished with a game-high 23 points to go along with 10 rebounds and six steals. Olivia Linebarger added six points and 10 rebounds.
The Tigers will return a strong core next winter, headlined by the DePaul-bound Waldron, but do lose eight seniors to graduation. Sierra Bisso, Kelly Langlas, Diamond Thompson, Alyssa Zappia, Cameron Briggs, Kimberly Hayes, Hannah Keating and Rachel Sievers have all played their last game in a Wheaton Warrenville South uniform.
"Langlas had come back from a knee injury," Kroehnke said, "Sierra was having an outstanding year before her knee injury, Diamond came in this year and fit in like she had been here four years and Allie works so hard all the time; she does that every year. Rachel is another senior who blew her knee out at Christmas and the other three seniors played mostly JV but were great leaders on and off the floor."
Kroehnke went on to say that the rest of the players coming up through the program can take a cue from this senior class.
"Not only did they have a successful year on the court," he said, "they were a great group off the court. And that's the bottom line. They are just great kids and 10 years from now, they will be successful because they work hard and they take care of each other."