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NORMAL — A Kelly Carter basket at the 6:19 mark of the third quarter had sliced the Bloomington High School deficit to eight, giving the Purple Raiders reason for optimism.

Kankakee Bishop McNamara snuffed out that optimism in impressive fashion Thursday in the Normal West Class AA Sectional championship basketball game.

The Fightin’ Irish girls limited BHS to seven points the rest of the contest while pulling away for a 64-29 victory.

“We start off with defense. That creates offense,” McNamara coach Jeff Bennett said. “It’s a tough group of kids. We got after it tonight. It was fun to watch them. One thing you can count on with this group is they play hard.”

The second-seeded Irish (23-6) meet Moline Monday in the Illinois Wesleyan Super-Sectional at Shirk Center.

Shooting and rebounding woes plagued No. 4 seed BHS, which bowed out at 19-9.

“It seemed like not only we couldn’t get the shots to fall, we started to panic a little bit,” Raiders’ coach Sondra Vogel said of the third quarter. “We turned the ball over more so than we’ve done all year.”

BHS committed eight of its 18 turnovers in the third quarter.

With Loyola recruit Jennifer Juergens and Taylor Bennett wreaking havoc with their quickness on defense, McNamara closed the third quarter with a 17-3 spurt for a 47-25 advantage.

Juergens scored 11 of her game-high 27 points in the third quarter. She recorded 17 of her points from the free throw line on 19 attempts.

“Juergens is a great player. She’s going to have a good night no matter who’s on the floor and no matter what defense you throw at her,” said Vogel.

“I thought we did a good job the first half holding her to 10 points. I was pleased with our defense. I thought we battled them every step of the way.”

The Irish then scored the first 10 points of the fourth quarter for a 57-25 cushion. BHS missed its first eight fourth-quarter shots before Cherelle Gay found the range with 2:56 remaining.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game. We thought if we could get our A game we could take this win,” said BHS junior Kristen Petrinec. “They are a good team. We wish them the best of luck. They were just the better team tonight. It may not have been that way on any other given night, but tonight they were.”

Petrinec paced the Raiders with nine points and seven rebounds. Carter chipped in six points.

Claire Schmidt contributed 17 points and 14 rebounds for McNamara. Brittany Hasselbring added 10 points. Juergens grabbed 10 rebounds as the Irish controlled the boards, 45-21.

“We have only lost the rebounding war twice this year. This was the third,” said Vogel. “They’re a strong team. They just outworked us.”

McNamara shot 39.6 percent from the floor (21 of 53) and converted 22 of 27 free throws for 81.4 percent.

“We’ve had a lot of success. I think we’re pretty comfortable in events like this. The kids are enjoying themselves,” Bennett said. “Our conference (East Suburban Catholic) had seven teams win regionals and six were playing tonight. We played a monster schedule and seemingly it’s paid off.”

After a 5 of 10 first quarter, BHS coaxed in just 5 of 31 shots the rest of the game to finish at 24.4 percent. The Raiders did not sink a 3-pointer in 14 tries.

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