Dixon downs Boylan Catholic in 3A Rochelle Regional championship – Shaw Local


ROCHELLE – In a regional championship game, every possession could matter. Facing second-seeded Boylan Catholic in the Class 3A Rochelle Regional final on Friday, third-seeded Dixon seemed to adopt that exact mindset.

The Duchesses took a four-point lead at the end of the first quarter and led every quarter thereafter, finishing a 52-44 win over the Titans to hoist the regional championship plaque and advance to the 3A Sycamore Sectional semifinals. Dixon will face top-seeded Crystal Lake Central at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“It feels amazing,” Dixon junior forward Hallie Williamson said. “I saw my former teammates in the stands, and it just made me think to last year about how sad we were that our season ended early [in a 45-44 regional semifinal loss to Rock Island]. But now we get to keep it going, so it just feels amazing. And then our student section here, they just kept us going the whole entire game.”

The Duchesses (25-6) struggled to finish around the basket for most of the first quarter, but started to pick things up toward the end, claiming an 11-7 edge over the Titans (25-7) by the buzzer with a 5-0 closing run.

Dixon senior guard Katie Drew nailed a right-wing 3-pointer for a 9-7 lead with 1:19 remaining, then freshman forward Ahmyrie McGowan put back her own miss to make it 11-7 with 35 seconds left.

Dixon’s Katie Drew handles the ball against Boylan’s Lily Esparza Friday, Feb. 16, 2024 at the class 3A Rochelle girls basketball regional.

Dixon extended its lead to 26-19 at halftime, grabbing 11 offensive rebounds and capitalizing on several of those with second-chance points. McGowan had six of those first-half offensive rebounds.

“I think one main key for us that we were doing really well was just rebounding,” Williamson said. “And then keep going up strong with our shots and getting those foul calls, because I feel like they fouled a lot. And also making our free throws. So I feel like that was a really important factor for us just going up and ending the first half.”

Boylan senior guard Alayna Petalber hit two 3s less than a minute apart to tie the game at 15 early in the second quarter, but the Duchesses scored 11 of the next 15 points to take a seven-point halftime lead.

A McGowan putback started the surge at the 5:17 mark, then sophomore guard Reese Dambman hit two free throws, Williamson made a putback and sophomore guard Morgan Hargrave made a layup during an 8-0 Duchesses run that spanned 3:32.

Hargrave hit a right-corner 3 with just over a minute left, and Boylan senior guard Kaylee Harter sank a last-second layup to reach the seven-point margin at halftime.

“We knew we had the lead, but we couldn’t stop and back down,” McGowan said. “As a good of a team as Boylan was, we knew how good of shooters they had – we just knew that we couldn’t back down and we just kept fighting.”

Dixon opened a 30-19 lead on a Drew layup barely two minutes into the third quarter, but with its season on the line, Boylan refused to go away. The Titans rallied to within 30-27 with an 8-0 run midway through the third quarter but ended it trailing 38-33.

Dixon’s Ahmyrie McGowan and Boylan’s Lily Esparza (left) and Gianna Marinaro fight for a ball Friday, Feb. 16, 2024 at the class 3A Rochelle girls basketball regional.

Petalber drew Boylan within 38-36 on a left-wing 3 with 6:48 left in the fourth, but Dixon surged to a 52-39 lead over the next 6:27.

Williamson ignited the 14-3 run with five straight points on two layups and a free throw, and McGowan put back a Drew missed 3 to extend a 7-0 run before Harter hit a left-wing 3 to get within 45-39. Dixon went on another 7-0 run over a 1:01 stretch to ice the win. McGowan hit three free throws, and Williamson and Drew each hit two as Dixon took a 13-point lead with 21.9 seconds left.

The Duchesses grabbed 30 total rebounds in the game, including 15 on the offensive glass. McGowan had eight of those offensive rebounds.

“It was a big part of our play, especially with the girl that was like 6′3″ [senior forward Lily Esparza],” McGowan said about the rebounding effort. “We knew that she could get a lot of putbacks, so we couldn’t let her get them and put back points.”

Williamson totaled 19 points and eight rebounds. McGowan compiled 11 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and four steals. Drew tallied 11 points and six rebounds. Hargrave chipped in eight points and three steals, and senior forward Jessie Pitman added two points and four rebounds for the Duchesses.

Boylan was led in scoring by Petalber, who scored 15 points on five 3s and dished three assists. Esparza totaled 14 points, 12 rebounds and four assists, and Harter added 13 points and five rebounds for the Titans.

Dixon players and their classmates celebrate their title win over Boylan Friday, Feb. 16, 2024 at the class 3A Rochelle girls basketball regional.


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