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Girls basketball: Plano survives Kaneland rally

Plano's Zhate Jacksgoes for layup as Kaneland's Caroline Heimerdinger looks Wednesday Burlington. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media

Plano's Zhate Jackson goes in for a layup as Kaneland's Caroline Heimerdinger looks on Wednesday in Burlington. | Michael R. Schmidt ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 13, 2013 11:29PM

Sometimes in clusters, sometimes one point at a time, third-seeded Kaneland shrank a 20-point second half deficit against second-seeded Plano to a single point with 9.6 seconds remaining.

But when the Knights had two chances to register the incredible comeback victory Wednesday in the Class 3A Burlington Central Regional semifinals, first the long arm of Clarisa Martinez denied them with a blocked shot, and then fate did.

A wide-open three-pointer by senior guard Alysson O’Herron with 1.5 seconds left struck iron, and Plano escaped with a 52-51 victory to make Friday’s 7:30 p.m. finale against top-seeded Burlington Central.

“Every time we left Kaneland open they hit a shot in the last three minutes, except that last one,” a relieved Plano coach Mario Serra said. “They had their best shooter wide open at the three-point line.”

Emma Bradford had spun inside and drove to the hoop, but Martinez produced her sixth blocked shot of the night, swatting the ball out of bounds and leaving Kaneland looking for that last shot with 1.5 seconds left.

“I wasn’t confident in the block because I thought it was going to be a foul,” Martinez said. “I just reacted to (the shot).”

Plano got five first quarter three-pointers, including three from guard Albana Hoti, as Kaneland’s defense sagged in on Martinez. A 15-2 run in the final 2:40 of the first quarter had given the Reapers a 22-6 edge going into the second quarter and helped send them on the way to a 37-17 lead 2:24 into the second half.

Everything seemed to be going the Reapers’ way, as they hit 7 of 11 three-pointers on the night. Holt was on the way to a 12-point game, while Zhate Jackson and Martinez were en route to 11-point efforts.

Then came the comeback. Ashley Prost led Kaneland (15-10) with a game-high 22 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. O’Herron and Caroline Heimerdinger (8 points) hit key three-pointers, and the Knights’ fullcourt pressure began producing turnovers.

“Ashley, she’s had some great games for us,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “”She definitely had one of those games tonight.

“I thought it was a great game from the standpoint that they were really clogging the lane on us with Martinez. I thought Ashley’s versatility to hit that short jumper really helped us out.”

It also helped when Martinez got in foul trouble and had to leave.

Four times in the fourth quarter the Knights had a chance to tie or take the lead after making the comeback, including the final sequence with Martinez’s shot block and O’Herron’s rimmed shot. But Plano (22-6) stood its ground and came away with its school-record 22nd victory.

“We’ve gotten in situations like this and the kids don’t dwell on what happens bad,” Serra said. “If a mistake happens, they just think, ‘I guess I’ve got to play better defense now.’ That’s what got us through that rally.

“But in the end they had their best shooter wide open at the three-point line. We feel fortunate to be in the finals. It’s going to be a great game.”

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