ELMHURST – Longtime Wheaton Warrenville South girls basketball teammates Maria Dohse and MacKenzie Stebbins joke that they share the same brain.
“I could be standing outside and say her name at volume two and she’d be running out there trying to find me,” Stebbins said. “She knows where I’m going to be all of the time. Me, Mira [Emma], Maria and a couple of other girls have been playing travel [basketball] together since fourth grade. That’s just something special that you don’t see often.”
On Thursday, the Tigers shared a third straight Class 4A regional championship by defeating York 40-29 in the York Regional final. Fourth-seeded WW South (21-8) meets seventh-seeded Lake Park (21-8), who knocked off top seed Rolling Meadows, in the Batavia Sectional semifinals at 6 p.m. Monday.
The Tigers, who beat Lake Park twice this season, have won 14 of their last 15. Emma, who scored 13 points, Dohse and Stebbins are four-year varsity starters. Fellow senior starters Kyla Ruggles and Abby Struebing also have been part of all three regional titles.
“Those five, they’ve played in these games before. This is why we’re playing big games and tough teams in November and December,” said WW South coach Rob Kroehnke. “They’re just rolling right now and as long as we have gas in the tank, we’re going to keep playing.”
Stebbins added 11 points and drew two defensive charges, Ruggles and senior Paige Miller had six points each and Dohse had five of her six rebounds in the second half.
For eighth-seeded York (18-13), sophomore Kaitlyn Kjome had 12 points and eight rebounds and junior Sara Krissinger had nine points.
The Tigers trailed 17-15 at halftime but opened the third quarter with a three-point play by Ruggles and a Stebbins basket to lead the rest of the way. York closed to 27-24 on Krissinger’s driving layup with 6:27 left, but the Tigers scored 10 unanswered points started by 8-for-8 free throw shooting from Emma and Stebbins.
“I like shooting free throws,” Emma said.
Indeed, Emma made all eight of her fourth-quarter free throws to finish 10-for-10 overall. While the Tigers made 19 of 23 free throws, the Dukes had just one.
“It’s just it’s an accomplishment to do this with the same girls since sophomore year. It’s special for my senior year. I couldn’t be more grateful for that,” Dohse said.
“We knew that in a game like this, as seniors, you keep your composure and with composure comes patience.”
York opened leads of 15-10 and 17-12 in the second quarter on a driving basket by Kissinger and inside bucket from Kjome off a pass by Sydney Molis. Unable to press like usual, the Tigers compacted their zone in hopes of thwarting the Dukes inside.
“I thought the first half we did a good job of moving the ball. We got the looks that we game planned for,” York coach Brandon Collings said. “We just couldn’t hit the open looks after they made their adjustment.”
The Tigers also beat York in last year's regional final, but the Dukes started four seniors in that game. They started none Thursday. Senior Matty Stark, York’s only returning starter, missed most of the season with a knee injury and suffered a season-ending knee injury in her second game back Feb. 4. Senior Kiah Rufus played Thursday but was injured for 26 games.
“Over the season we made a lot of good friendships and we’ve created a lot of good chemistry, which is going to help us next year,” Kjome said. “Their defense, as our coach said, is probably one of the best in state. They knocked their free throws down and that was really great on their part.”