SPRINGFIELD — Maddy Nalley has went from seldom-used backup as a freshman and sophomore to a role player who was there for her defense as a junior to a breakthrough offensive player as a senior to the star of the Class 1 Final Four on Thursday.
Shooting like her older brother, Trent, did during his Chadwick career, Maddy made a trio of 3-pointers and scored 24 points in the Lady Cardinals' 55-43 State semifinal victory versus Platte Valley.
"I honestly was not a super good player," Nalley said convincingly, while summing up her three nondescript seasons leading up to her senior year.
Nalley grabbed the spotlight Thursday with a trio of 3-pointers and 14 points in the first quarter alone. Her hot hand propelled Chadwick to a 23-point opening quarter and a 15-point lead on the two-time defending state champions.
"When the first quarter was over, I grabbed her by the face and said to her, 'Maddy, I love you so much!'" guard Cora Michael said.
"It was amazing," Nalley said of her first-quarter fireworks. "When we were going up and down the court, Kerrigan (Guerin) and Raeleigh (Little) knew where to find me fast."
Nalley added to what were already career-highs clear across her stats line. She now has 51 3s and 293 points this season to help the Lady Cardinals to their second Class 1 title tilt appearance in their program's history.
Guerin remains Chadwick's go-to girl. But she so admires all that Nalley has packed into her senior season that she can only hope her own senior season in two years will be as glorious.
"This year has been her year. It's been a perfect year for her senior year," Guerin said. "If you leave her open, she's going to make it. Sometimes, when you're in your eye, she'll still make it. I'm so proud of her. It's so crazy to see her improve and reach the goals she wanted to reach."
Nalley cooled off a bit as the semifinal went along, but continued to put herself in position score. She put up points in each quarter and finished 10-of-19 from the field.
Nalley's numbers offensively have been on the rise, she feels, because of her contributions on defense. She carries momentum and confidence from one end of the court to the other, with her defense usually setting up her offense.
"My defense has stepped up and helped (me) perform better shooting," Nalley said. "I think my defense, whenever I'm pumped up from getting steals, helps my shooting. It's all confidence and I need to be confident in my shooting so I can help my team."
Nalley figured going in, she wasn't much more than a blip on Platte Valley's scouting report of the Lady Cardinals.
"I feel like I was on there, but not as much as 4 and 5," she said, referring to the jersey numbers worn by Guerin and Little.
Chadwick (24-5) could not have asked for a better start and for that matter, couldn't have asked for much better second and third quarters or a better finish.
The Lady Cardinals were giving up height to Platte Valley (27-4), but proved to be far superior ball-handlers. Their edge in athleticism and speed also won out.
Chadwick was outrebounded 32-23 and Platte Valley pulled down 18 offensive boards, but the Lady Cardinals recorded 16 assists and 12 steals.
Guerin dished out eight assists and Little seven. Guerin also had four steals and 11 points and Michael made three 3s and scored 13 points.
"We thought we had a decent plan coming in and thank goodness we executed," Chadwick coach Shawn Guerin said.
Platte Valley center Maggie Collins collected 25 points, 14 rebounds, three assists and three steals. But from the perspective of the Lady Eagles, she simply did not have enough touches off set plays.
Collins was 9-of-11 from the field. She had nine offensive rebounds.
Chadwick's zone defense often kept a defender or two in between Collins and her teammates.
"We knew they were going to try to pound us down low," Shawn Guerin said. "We thought if we could put a little pressure on their guards early and use our speed to get a lead, then maybe we could back in to where we could double and slow (Collins) down. We let Maddy slide down and double the post."
The rest of Platte Valley's offense had no answer. Chadwick's speed completely overwhelmed the Lady Eagles' guards. Platte Valley had 16 turnovers and was 3-of-18 from 3-point land.
All that was left for Chadwick to do was close things out. The Lady Cardinals nearly lost all of a 17-point fourth quarter lead in their Quarterfinal win against Delta.
"Anything can happen, we saw that with Delta," Kerrigan Guerin said.
But Chadwick never let Platte Valley mount any semblance of a comeback. Once the winners went up 39-27, the Lady Cardinals' lead was as high as 18 points and was double-digits the rest of the game.
"I was thinking that, if we could keep having positive energy, we would have this in the bag," Little said.
By design, Chadwick backed off its full-court pressure.
"I think I learned something from last Saturday (against Delta)," Shawn Guerin said. "When a team presses you like Delta did us and we (don't) have many players, why don't we try to pull back and go zone? I thought that might save (our) legs a little down the stretch and I think it did help us."
Chadwick's opponent in today's 4 p.m. championship game will be Meadville (30-0). Centers will be a no-show in a matchup that will feature speed versus speed.
The Lady Eagles are coached by former Clever superintendent Steve Carvajal. Two of his daughters, Paige and Madison, combined are averaging more than 38 points a game.
"Meadville, right?" Shawn Guerin said prior to Meadville's 51-46 semifinal win against Leeton. "They have guards who are super fast and they like to put a lot of pressure on (ball-handlers)."
Chadwick 55, Platte Valley 43
CHADWICK (55) — Nalley 10-19 1-1 24, C. Burkhart 0-1 1-2 1, Michael 5-7 0-0 13, Guerin 4-7 2-2 11, Little 3-7 0-0 6, M. Burkhart 0-3 0-0 0, Finney 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-45 4-5 55.
PLATTE VALLEY (43) — Billey 0-10 0-0 0, Langford 1-3 0-0 2, Angle 3-10 0-0 9, Collins 9-11 7-9 25, Mattson 2-5 1-1 5, Turpin 1-4 0-0 2, Hauber 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 15-47 8-10 43.
Chadwick 23 6 19 7 - 55
Platte Valley 8 9 13 13 - 43
3-point goals - Chadwick 7-16 (Michael 3-4, Nally 3-8, Guerin 1-1, Finney 0-1), Platte Valley 3-18 (Brylie 3-6, Billey 0-9, Langford 0-2, Turpin 0-1). Rebounds — Platte Valley 32 (Collins 14), Chadwick 23 (Guerin and C. Burkhart 5). Assists — Chadwick 16 (Guerin 8, Little 7, M. Burkhart 1), Platte Valley 6 (Collins 3). Steals — Chadwick 12 (Guerin 4), Platte Valley 8 (Collins and Billey 3).
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