At 5 feet 8, Ridgewood's John Caravia plays basketball the only way he knows how.
"For his size," Rebels coach Chris Mroz said, "he's a monster."
Caravia's passion explains the technical he received for clapping at a player after being fouled during the second quarter of Ridgewood's 81-47 rout of host Lakes in the teams' Class 3A regional final Friday night.
"This game has a lot of emotion, and the emotion just got the better of me that possession," Caravia said. "I just calmed down, and my teammates took care of the rest."
Caravia contributed. His passion also explains how during the third quarter he blocked a shot on the baseline, grabbed the rebound, dribbled quickly the other direction and sank a pull-up jumper.
Caravia finished with 19 points, including a 3-pointer.
"It's not about the size," Caravia said. "It's about the heart you have. I play with emotion."
So does his team.
With a starting lineup featuring three players shorter than 6 feet, Ridgewood (19-9) captured its first regional championship since 1998. The runnin' Rebels will play on their home court against Fenton (11-19) in Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. sectional semifinal in Norridge.
Playing up-tempo and pressing full-court from the start, Ridgewood sank 11 3-pointers against Lakes (9-20), which was led by junior Tanner Blain's 9 points.
"They're little kids that can play and shoot," said Eagles senior Parker Blain, who scored 6 points and grabbed a team-high 6 rebounds. "They're scrappy little kids."
Junior Pete Mroz led Ridgewood with 22 points, including five 3s. Caravia, 5-11 Andy Mazurczak (16 points, two 3s) and 5-10 freshman Anthony Mroz (13 points, three third-quarter 3s) also scored in double figures.
"We got a lot of good guards," said Chris Mroz, a recently turned 27-year-old and first-year head coach, whose starting lineup includes his brothers Pete and Anthony.
Ridgewood opened the game with 3-pointers from Mazurczak and Caravia, and never trailed. The Rebels were up 17-13 after one quarter, 36-22 at halftime and 64-38 after three after Anthony Mroz banked in a 3 from the corner to beat the buzzer.
Lakes' 6-8 Justin Schneider scored his team's first 5 points, but the Eagles had trouble hanging onto the ball, committing 13 of their 21 turnovers in the opening half.
"We watched them (Tuesday against Elmwood Park) and they were running zone, and they came out (Friday) in a man," Parker Blain said. "They were just lights out, shooting-wise."
Despite the presence of Schneider (8 points), 6-4 Nick Hibbing and the 6-1 Blain brothers, Lakes couldn't take advantage of its edge in height.
"We were really concerned," Chris Mroz said. "They've had some good wins over the year. I thought their size would give us some problems. We wanted to get them out of getting the ball in the post, so that's the main reason why we full-court pressed and got up in the passing lanes."
Lakes' first season under head coach Chris Snyder included an upset win over North Chicago to start the new year, but the Eagles dropped six of their last seven contests.
"It wasn't disappointing. It was a great season," said Parker Blain, emotional himself. "We had a tough schedule. I thought we could make (the won-lost record) better, but things didn't happen."