NORMAL, Ill. — Kiara Lewis carried Young for most of this season, so it was fitting that her teammates lifted her up moments after the Dolphins secured the Class 4A girls basketball state championship Saturday.
After missing all of last season with a knee injury, Lewis, a sophomore, scored 20 points to lead Young to a 60-44 victory at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University
The Dolphins (32-3) opened and closed their season with wins over Rolling Meadows. The Dolphins defeated the Mustangs 54-40 on Dec. 7.
"I just came out real intense and I wanted a state championship after what happened last year and not being able to play," Lewis said. "I came out strong. The whole weekend we came out fast and strong."
Young won its final 16 games to win the program's third state championship and second in three years.
Although Young's state title run didn't match the 2011-2012 undefeated season, the Dolphins put on a memorable two-day show.
Young knocked off defending champion Marian Catholic 60-20 in a semifinal Friday, then led 8-0 and 20-9 on Saturday. The Dolphins' interior size and quickness on the perimeter slowed down the Mustangs' high-octane offense.
Rolling Meadows shot 2-for-15 in the first quarter and 4-for-30 in the half.
Lewis scored seven points in the third quarter and her 3-pointer and assist to Taylor Malone on the ensuing possessions gave the Dolphins a 40-24 lead. Jenny Vliet, who had a game-high 21 points to go with 10 rebounds, tried to keep the Mustangs (29-5) in the game. She scored 15 of her team's 30 points through three quarters and five straight early in the fourth.
"She was huge for our team this year and today," Young coach Corry Irvin said of Lewis. "As a team, I thought our defense on Alexis (Glasgow) was huge, and Jackie (Kemph) had to work extra hard to get shots off."
The Mustangs received a break when 6-foot-5 Young center Khaalia Hillsman fouled out with 4 minutes, 12 seconds left, but they scored just two points the rest of the game.
The Mustangs, who lost 48-47 to Marian Catholic in last season's final on Kauai Bradley's putback winning basket at the buzzer, will lose eight seniors.
"I think it's a pretty safe bet to say they'll be the best group that I'll ever coach," Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. "It will probably be the best group to go through Rolling Meadows, and maybe the Mid-Suburban League."
Player of the game: Kiara Lewis, Young, 20 points, 2 steals.
Key performers: Rolling Meadows — Jenny Vliet, 21 points, 10 rebounds; Alexis Glasgow, 10 points, 7 rebounds. Young — Madinah Muhammad, 16 points, 4 rebounds; Khaalia Hillsman, 10 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks.Copyright © 2015, CT Now