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How sweet it is: Maine South Hawks hammer Evanston for CSL South girls championship

Back on February 24, 2020 in an IHSA Class 4A Girls Maine West Sectional semifinal, Evanston defeated Maine South 65-51.

Evanston totally dominated the game and led by as many as 28 points.

For the third consecutive season, the Wildkits ended a Hawks season. For the 2019-20 season, Maine South finished 24-6 with three of the losses coming to Evanston.

On Friday night in Park Ridge, Maine South met up again with their nemesis.

The Hawk girls entered the game with a one-game lead over the Wildkits in the CSL South in the first of a home-and-home Central Suburban League South season-ending series.

With a win, the Hawks would win the CSL South title outright. The two teams meet up again on Saturday in Evanston at 2 p.m.

Remembering all of the heart-breaking defeats to the Wildkits over the years, the Hawks exploded out to a 23-12 first quarter lead and rolled to a 50-34 victory.

CSL South champions.

The Hawks were led by their 6-foot junior Emily Pape, who scored a game-high 18 points. Pape also hauled

down 10 boards for a double double, while picking up three steals and handed out three assists.

"I have worked very hard to improve in every aspect of my game," Pape said. "I was very aggressive going to the basket tonight and it feels great to be CSL South champions."

Three-year Hawk starter Niamh Gardiner added a double double, scoring 14 points and hauling down 10 rebounds. Twin-sister Nicole added 11 points with seven rebounds and three steals.

"It feels really good to win the CSL South," Niamh Gardiner said. "It feels good to finally beat Evanston for the first time in my career."

"It means a lot to have finally defeated Evanston and win the CSL South," Nicole Gardiner said. "It was frustrating not to be able to play but when we finally did play, we played well."

Maine South (13-3, 9-0) jumped all over the Wildkits (13-5, 7-2) behind eight points from Pape and six from Niamh Gardiner for a 23-12 first quarter lead.

Both teams went cold in the second quarter.

In fact, the Hawks were shutout for five minutes before extending their lead to 29-17 at the half. Pape and Niamh Gardiner each had 10 points to lead the Hawks.

In the third quarter Niamh Gardiner, off of an assist from the 5-foot-3 diminutive Hawks point-guard Niki Manolis, gave the Hawks a 36-22 lead with 3:03 in the third quarter. Nicole Gardiner, nailed a pair of free-throws to extend the Hawks lead to 40-24. And when 5-foot-11 junior Pasier Lohens' put-back basket gave the Hawks a 42-24 lead after three quarters.

Pape scored six fourth-quarter points as the Hawks lead grew to 50-30 with three minutes remaining in the game.

Manolis did not score a point in the conference title-clinching game, however, she did hand out five assists and picked up three steals and ran Maine South coach Jeff Hamann's offense well.

"Awesome," Manolis said. "The Gardiner twins and I have played together for four years and have gone full circle. We won the CSL South together as freshman on the JV team. And now tonight to win the CSL South again as seniors is awesome."

"We have a great senior group," Hamann said. "To face all of the adversity now for a year. Whether we have a season or not, to lose the season and not know when we will get it back. To get it back and achieve your No.1 goal, to win the CSL South championship is amazing. I am so happy for and proud of the girls.

"The Gardiner sisters are three-year starters and they gave us great senior leadership and mental toughness. They are great basketball players, too. Niki Manolis is my field general on the floor. Last season she had the second highest number of assists in a single season in Maine South history. She handles the ball for us and distributes the ball and plays great defense. Our junior guard Emily Pape has improved so much from last season to thi, because of her great work-ethic. I am glad to have Emily coming back for us next season."


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