By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
NORMAL, Ill. -- Kristen Gengenbacher didn't care who or what stood in her path.
Nothing was going to keep her from attacking the rim. Not even a 6-foot-2 all-state forward with an NCAA Division I scholarship.
When Quincy Notre Dame's Mary Beth Hugenberg hit the 5-foot-8 Gengenbacher in stride with an outlet pass in early in the fourth quarter of Friday's Class 3A state semifinal, the junior guard felt herself in the crosshairs.
Morton's Sarah Livingston, who has committed to the University of Illinois, was charging at her and the Potters' Kaitlyn Byrne, a 6-1 guard, was trailing the play. Despite that, Gengenbacher lofted a high-arching shot off the glass while drawing contact from Byrne and getting the foul call.
She got the basket, too, celebrating with an emphatic fist pump.
"There was just such adrenaline rushing through my head," Kristen Gengenbacher said. "We always talk about trying to draw that foul. I guess I did it, and my team was there to support me."
It helped give the Lady Raiders enough energy to finish off their 67-51 at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena.
QND senior Jordan Frericks had just picked up her fourth foul and the Potters (30-4) had possession, trailing by 15 with 7 minutes, 36 seconds remaining. However, the ball was poked away from Byrne and tracked down by QND's Quenna Keating, who quickly swung the ball Hugenberg.
The ball was played forward to Gengenbacher, whose three-point play pushed the lead to 54-36 with 6:55 remaining.
"With Jordan on the bench, that took away a lot of what we can do," Lady Raiders coach Eric Orne said. "A lot of teams focus on her and that opens a lot of avenues for us. It was good Kristen made that huge play for us. We've had that all through the postseason, someone stepping up and making a good play. One player always needs to step up, and Kristen did that today."
Gengenbacher finished with 13 points, three assists and a blocked shot. Seismic shifts in the game's tempo required her to be sharp. In the first quarter, QND played at a breakneck pace, opening a 24-5 lead.
Forcing Morton to turn the ball over twice on its first two possessions, QND went ahead 8-0 on a 3-pointer by Gengenbacher, a layup by Frericks and a 3-pointer by Hugenberg. As a team, the Lady Raiders scored 31 points off turnovers and 18 in transition.
"Kristen sets up all our offenses," said Kassidy Gengenbacher, who finished with a game-high 15 points. "She's almost the key to our offense because she gets us and gets us moving. For her to have so much energy and to make the drives at the beginning of the game, it set the tempo for what our offense was going to be like for the rest of the game."
And while Morton never cut the lead to single digits, it appeared the Potters' seized the momentum in the fourth quarter.
Gengenbacher fearlessly changed that.
"She did a good job of driving to and getting to the rim," Frericks said. "She did a good job of going up strong. She had an easy person to take to the hoop. She looked at the opportunity and she took it. I'm glad she did."