WOODSTOCK – Ellen Koscielniak started and ended the game better than she could have imagined.
It was the Marian Central junior who started the game by connecting on a 3-pointer. And it was Koscielniak who put the Hurricanes on her shoulders during a crucial overtime period, scoring the first nine of the team's 11 points.
Her efforts, coupled with the performance from teammate Shannon Wuensch and great team defense, led the way for the Hurricanes as they won the Class 3A Woodstock Regional championship by defeating Woodstock North in overtime, 64-56. The Hurricanes will face Burlington Central in a semifinal of the Genoa-Kingston Sectional on Tuesday.
"When we came out and did what we did to them in the first quarter I seriously knew we could play with them," Hurricanes coach Jackie Budmayr said of her team's 17-7 lead at the end of the quarter.
"After watching a lot of film we knew just what to do, and I can't take any credit. It was the girls who executed and handled all of that pressure."
The Hurricanes jumped out to an early 10-point lead but the Thunder reigned them back in and brought the game within 26-24 at the half and 41-40 entering the fourth quarter.
Marian Central's 6-foot center Hannah Davis then fouled out. Not long after, teammate and point guard Alissa Melchionna picked up her fourth foul as well as the Thunder's Aleecia Braun – the two would later foul out in overtime.
"It completely changed the game," Thunder head coach Mike Lewis said of his point guard Braun having to take a seat due to foul trouble. "We were making a run when she picked up that foul and it definitely changed the game and those problem for us altered the game."
Wuensch took over with Melchionna sitting and drove to the basket nearly every possession and took advantage of the Thunder's foul trouble. Fourteen of her game-high 28 points came at the foul line.
"I just saw some spots that I could take advantage of," she said of her performance. "It's just an amazing feeling and we all did what we could to help us realize our goal."
With Braun out, the Thunder relied on Emma Everly's stellar 3-point shooting as well as Sami Ahr's inside presence. Everly ended with a team-high 16 points while Sami Ahr hit the game's biggest shot to go along with 10 points.
Her team down 53-51 with 3.9 seconds reaming, Ahr dribbled the ball into the lane and put up a shot that was contested by four Hurricanes. It fell through the net as time expired.
It was all Koscielniak from here-on-out. She scored on three consecutive possessions while tallying two block on the defensive end to seal the victory.
"She's somebody that gives and gives and goes so hard," Budmayr said of Koscielniak and her 19 points. "She can cover the entire floor on defense and you think she doesn't have an ounce left then she turns it up at the end. She's a tremendous athlete."