CARY – Winning ugly carries little weight at this part of the season, as No. 1-seeded Prairie Ridge discovered in Wednesday's 34-32 regional semifinal win against Crystal Lake Central.
It didn't matter that the Wolves managed only one fourth-quarter field goal. They made 7 of 12 free-throw attempts in the fourth and held off the fourth-seeded Tigers despite two 3-pointers by Central senior Shannon Ellman in the final six seconds that made it a two-point game.
Not only does the win send the Wolves to the regional title game Friday against C-G, but they reach 20 wins on the season, which has been a goal since the beginning of the year.
"We knew coming out it was going to be low scoring, and that they wanted to battle us," Wolves coach Rob Baker said. "They made it very hard for us to score. We played great defense too. ... We won playing their style of game."
A little more than two weeks after the Wolves beat the Tigers by 19 points in a nonconference game, Central gave them everything they could handle. Timely baskets from Sarah Le Beau (eight points) and Kelly Klendworth (11 points) helped the Wolves build a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter. An inability to score in the second and third quarters (seven total points) hurt the Tigers' comeback bid.
There were some ifs left behind in the loss for the Tigers (15-14). If only a few more open looks fell. If only they could have taken advantage of holding Prairie Ridge to 34 points. But Central coach Paul Lichtenheld was proud of his team and how it battled back from nine-point fourth quarter deficit.
"At the end of game, I don't have a regret about what we did or didn't do," Lichtenheld said. "We did what we were supposed to do for 32 minutes."