By Randy Whalen
Kira Chivers is a dynamo.
With Marist clinging to a one-point lead at the start of the fourth quarter in a Class 3A Stagg Sectional semifinal against Thornwood, the Thunderbirds got their own rebound of a missed shot, giving them another chance to take the lead.
Chivers, the RedHawks’ 5-foot-2 sophomore point guard, had other ideas, leaping into the fray to grab the ball and forcing a jump ball that went to Marist. The game was far from over – there would be one tie four lead changes before the RedHawks earned the 62-56 victory – but the aggressiveness and toughness displayed by Marist’s smallest player was inspiring.
This was the RedHawks’ game and they weren't going to be denied.
Chivers finished with a game-high 18 points as Marist toppled Thornwood in a very entertaining game on Feb. 24.
The top-seeded RedHawks (29-4) face No. 2 seed Homewood-Flossmoor at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27 for the sectional championship.
No. 4-seeded Thornwood (21-10) lost in the sectional semifinals for the second straight season.
"Especially with my size, I have to have no fear," Chivers said. "I just kept telling the team, 'Guys, we got this. We're still in it.' Anyone on this team can score."
Chivers had 14 of her points in the first half.
"She's an impressive competitor and knows how to take the game over," Marist coach Mary Pat Connolly said of Chivers. "She lets the game come to her and is a total player. She loves to show people that even though she's short, she's a complete player."
Marist junior forward Sydney Affolter scored 10 of her 14 points in the second half and grabbed 12 rebounds. Freshman forward Elise Ward added eight points while sophomore forward Mary Clare Brusek and senior guard Morgan Flynn and Jenna Ryan all scored six points. Sophomore center Emily Bojan had four points and eight rebounds.
After 13 ties, the 16th and final lead change came with 3:22 remaining in the fourth quarter when Affolter hit a pair of free throws for a 50-49 RedHawks’ lead. That started a 9-0 run and Marist built a 57-49 advantage with 1:41 to play.
"It was really tough to sit out and it's hard being in foul trouble," said Affolter, who sat out for a stretch of 8:26 in the first half after picking up a pair of first-quarter fouls. "But I had confidence in my teammates and just had to keep trying on the rebounds. We just kept picking each other up and saying this was our game."
The game was tied 13-13 after the first quarter, and Chivers capped off an 8-1 run on a layup to give Marist a 28-21 lead with 1:42 to play in the first half.
"When the outside shots aren't falling, you have to take it to the basket," Chivers said. "I always try to get my teammates involved but there are times I have to take it to the basket."
Thornwood closed the first half on an 8-0 run and led 29-28 at halftime. The third quarter had six ties and seven lead changes and ended with the RedHawks back on top, 44-43.
First Things First
Marist mashed Lincoln-Way East 78-38 in the title game of the Shepard Regional on Feb. 21. The RedHawks used a balanced scoring attack as they had a trio of 14-point scorers in Affolter, Brusek and Flynn. Ryan added 12 points.
A high scoring first quarter by both teams left Marist up 24-16, but a 19-5 second quarter put the RedHawks up 43-21 at halftime. They extended that to 68-30 after three and coasted to their eighth regional title in the past 10 years and 13th since the school started girls athletics in the 2002-03 season.
The RedHawks won their postseason opener by 61 points on Feb. 19, a 73-12 victory over Andrew in the opening semifinal of the Shepard Sectional.
It was 18-2 at the end of the first quarter and 47-4 at halftime. Marist substituted throughout but the starters came out for good after playing the first 3:13 of the third quarter. It was 70-7 after three. The RedHawks had runs of 26-0 and 22-0 in the game.
Thirteen players scored for Marist, which was led by 10 points from Affolter. Brusek and Ryan had nine points while Flynn found her way for eight points.