MARENGO — Indians forward Erin Haeflinger stepped to the line in a tie game with 14.1 seconds on the clock. The junior had missed her previous four free-throw attempts on the night.
But when it mattered most, Haeflinger made 1-of-2 free throws to give Marengo a 39-38 lead, which it would hold onto to beat Rock Falls in the Class 3A Marengo Regional semifinals on Tuesday.
“I knew that I really needed to make it,” Haeflinger said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen and you have to make free throws to win a game. If you don’t make your free throws in those situations, you don’t deserve to win the game.”
Marengo coach Nick Rode was happy to see Haeflinger, who has struggled from the line at times this season, hit one with the game on the line. Haeflinger finished with four points and four rebounds. She was 2 of 7 from the line in the game.
“She’s a kid that put in some extra time on her free throws over Christmas break,” Rode said. “Things weren’t going quite the way she wanted them to from the line. I’m really happy to see a kid that’s put in the time hit a big one when we needed it most.”
Rock Falls had one last chance, but the Indians' defense held tight. Marengo’s Marissa Knobloch pressured Rock Falls guard Taylor Hoefler into a difficult running shot that went wide right as the buzzer sounded.
“For every kid that was on the varsity bench tonight, that was their first varsity postseason win,” Rode said. “You saw a lot of tears of joy. Hopefully we’re not done.”
Marengo (21-8) advances to face Burlington Central in the regional championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday at Marengo. Burlington Central moved past Belvidere earlier in the night in the other regional semifinal.
Knobloch led Marengo with 10 points and seven rebounds, while Jordan Parker scored eight points and Hannah Ritter scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds.
Rock Falls (13-13) jumped out to an early lead behind the solid post play of sophomore forward Elise Moeller. She finished with eight points, but six of them came in the first quarter.
Molly Buck scored 10 points to lead the Rockets. Miranda Hewitt scored nine points and pulled in nine rebounds.
Marengo went on a 7-0 run late in the third quarter to take its first lead since the early minutes. The final quarter was a back-and-forth affair.
On a night when one final free throw made the difference for Marengo, Rock Falls shot 8 of 18 from the free-throw line.
“Our free throws, I know it wasn’t good for what we normally shoot,” Rock Falls coach Eric Wolf said. “That kind of hurt us tonight. We did a pretty good job on (Knobloch). She had one (3-pointer) in the fourth.”
Knobloch did not score a field goal until the second half, when she scored nine of her 10 points. She drained a 3-pointer to put Marengo ahead by four with two and a half minutes to play.
“I just kept shooting because eventually my shot’s going to fall, I didn’t dwell on misses,” Knobloch said.
STAR OF THE GAME
Erin Haeflinger, Marengo, jr., F
Haeflinger knocked down 1-of-2 free throws with 14.1 seconds on the clock to give Marengo a one-point lead. She finished with four points.
1: The win was the first postseason win that any of the current Marengo players had experienced on the varsity level.
AND ANOTHER THING …
Marengo guard Marissa Knobloch scored only one 3-pointer, but it was a key shot in the final minutes.
“What I’m most proud of her about, the ball wasn’t going in the way it normally does for her from 3-point land, but she stayed with it and hits that big one right in the corner in front of our bench,” coach Nick Rode said.
Marengo 39, Rock Falls 38
Marengo 6 9 15 9 — 39
Rock Falls 10 8 9 11 — 38
MARENGO (39): Aubry 2 1-1 5, Ritter 2 1-3 6, Parker 3 2-6 8, Haeflinger 1 2-7 4, Knobloch 3 3-4 10, Faber 3 0-0 6, Heinberg 0 0-1 0. Totals: 14 9-22 39.
3-point goals: 2 (Ritter 1, Knobloch 1).
ROCK FALLS (38): Buck 4 3-8 10, Hoefler 1 0-0 2, Peyton 3 1-2 7, Hewitt 4 1-4 9, Moeller 3 2-4 8, Shaw 0 0-0 0, Johnson 0 0-0 0, Fischbach 0 0-0 0, Chattic-McGowan 1 0-0 2. Totals: 15 8-18 38.
3-point goals: 0.