As Metea Valley's first-half lead on Naperville Central ballooned bigger and bigger, even Lori Obendorf couldn't believe what the scoreboard read.
Up. 9. Then 15. And at one point, 21.
"That was pretty incredible," said the Metea junior. "I certainly didn't think that that was going to happen."
No. 12 seed Metea watched most of the lead disappear in a shaky third quarter but held on to beat No. 5 Naperville Central 52-45 at Tuesday's Class 4A Oswego regional.
Metea turned the tables on a 45-25 loss to Naperville Central in November. These aren't the same Mustangs (16-12), now 8-1 over their last nine games.
It's an upset but not a surprise.
"We know that we're a 12 seed," Obendorf said, "but we feel that we can play against any team that we go up against."
Naperville Central (19-9) came in riding a nine-game win streak but left with its first loss in a regional opener since 1997. The Redhawks were also denied a 20-win season for the first time since 2007.
Drake recruit Emma Donahue, who scored 49 points over the Redhawks' last two games, managed just 5 points on 8 shot attempts against Metea's 2-3 zone and the defense of Obendorf.
Unlike most of the Redhawks' DVC foes, Metea had the size to counter the 6-3 Donahue and 6-foot Victoria Trowbridge.
"Some of the things that normally work for us didn't work," Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum said. "We knew we got a bad first-round draw against a team playing well. In a way we finished the year like we started -- we didn't get the ball to Emma enough. But Metea's size precluded that."
Metea jumped out to a 11-2 lead, and the margin expanded to 36-15 with 2:12 left in the first half on Bria Walker's deep 3-pointer. Naperville Central inched closer behind Sarah Lang's five 3-pointers and 15 points off the bench, a Lang 3 making it 40-30 with 5:37 left in the third.
The Redhawks dialed up some extended defensive pressure, forcing 8 Metea turnovers in the third quarter. The Mustangs went scoreless for nearly eight minutes, until Megan Geldernick's long 3 with 6:25 left in the game made it 43-35.
Jamie Cuny's 3 drew Naperville Central within 44-41 and the Redhawks had a possession for a possible tie, but Geldernick stole the ball, throwing it back in from midair out of bounds. At the other end Obendorf converted a driving layup over Donahue.
"When we needed to buckle down, fortunately we were able to," Metea coach Kris Kalivas said. "The kids were ready for this rematch."
"We just couldn't seem to get over the hump," Nussbaum said. "My regret is not making them play fast sooner than we did."
Obendorf scored 14 points, Anna Petersen 12 and Amira Turner had 10 points and 12 rebounds for Metea, who advances to play District 204 rival Neuqua Valley Friday.
The two teams split a pair of regular-season games, Neuqua winning 57-55 in overtime in December and Metea pulling out a 43-42 win Jan. 21.
"It's going to be pretty intense," Obendorf said. "It's going to be about other people stepping up."