The adrenaline-fueled fourth quarter Ridgewood rode to victory on Wednesday night was too much for the relentless Fenton Bison to overcome.
The Bison (11-20) cut the Rebels lead down to 2 points after three quarters, but Ridgewood hung tough for a 64-53 win at home in a Class 3A sectional semifinal in Norridge.
With the win Ridgewood (20-9) advanced to play North Chicago on Friday night in the sectional final.
The first three quarters were a classic seesaw battle featuring an array of 3-point shooting by the Rebels.
The Ridgewood defense that struggled to control Fenton's Dan Montano came to life in the fourth quarter and ultimately earned the Rebels a place in the sectional final.
Montano sealed his man in the post and scored high-percentage baskets at will until a major halftime adjustment by the Rebels. Coach Chris Mroz put Ridgewood's widest body, Frank Portera, in charge of guarding Montano.
"Montano definitely got the ball in a couple places that we didn't want him to get it," Mroz said. "We just tried to wear him down as much as possible."
Ridgewood's defense threw another curveball at the Bison in the second half.
"We went to a 1-3-1 zone (defense) in the second half," said Ridgewood leading scorer Andy Mazurczak. "We never play zone; they weren't expecting it."
The Bison had made a habit of overcoming adversity all season.
"I can't say we expected (to get this far), because we had some rough moments throughout the season, but we played very well in these last five games," Fenton coach Dennis Cromer said. "Everyone in the locker room wishes they could have some shots back, but by no means did we embarrass ourselves."
Last Friday the Bison celebrated their first regional title since 1976.
"With all the leadership from our seniors and all the time they put in doing exactly what we told them, it made it gratifying to see them have some success in the end," Cromer said.
Ridgewood has no players on its roster taller than 6-foot-3 and will have to rely on hustle in its showdown with North Chicago.
"We'll have to box them out," Mazurczak said. "North Chicago's athletic and fast. We can't let them penetrate."
Keeping North Chicago from dominating the lane will be crucial to Ridgewood's chances for victory Friday.
"We're going to have to handle the pressure and turn them into a perimeter team," Mroz said.