It was a basketball game, but Morgan Berge looked like a track star, and a football player, too.
The senior guard from Johnsburg sprinted behind Wauconda's fullcourt defense Wednesday night and did her best wide receiver impression to haul in a long pass that sailed nearly half the length of the court. When she came down with the ball, she turned on the jets again to get herself quickly to the basket.
"Her speed changes a lot of things," Johnsburg coach Brad Frey said of Berge. "You get her in the open floor and there's not a lot of people who can catch her.
Berge's ensuing layup essentially made Johnsburg uncatchable. It extended the Skyhawks' tenuous 2-point lead to 4 points with just under a minute to play. It also gave Johnsburg the momentum to ultimately close out a 38-32 regional semifinal victory on Wauconda's home floor.
"I had no idea I would be (so open). It just sort of happened," said Berge, who finished with a team-high 13 points. "It was definitely (a key play)."
Johnsburg, which improves to 10-20, will now face Grayslake Central, a convincing 54-13 winner over Senn in the earlier semifinal, in Friday's 7:30 p.m. regional championship at Wauconda.
The Skyhawks lost both of their Fox Valley Conference Fox Division games to Grayslake Central this season by double-figures.
"They're just really good," Frey said of Grayslake Central. "It's going to take a really good game for us to even get close.
"We played them a couple of weeks ago and we're a little bit better now, but it's going to take our best game to beat them. They're a really solid team. It's going to be fun, but it's going to take the best we've got to compete with them."
The Skyhawks showed some of their best stuff in building a 10-point lead over Wauconda in the third quarter. Berge got to the basket and hit free throws while senior center Ashley Schuld had a couple of big buckets.
But Wauconda (7-20) showed the feistiness that it has been known for all year.
The Bulldogs clawed back into the game in the fourth quarter thanks to a couple of big shots by senior guard Diana Enriquez and a three-pointer by sophomore guard Lauren Nee.
Then, a baseline jumper by Andrea Lichterman cut Johnsburg's lead to just 2 points (32-30) with 1:45 to play.
"It's been the story of our lives this year," Wauconda coach Jaime Dennis said. "We don't have very many wins, but we've played some pretty good teams really tough. Antioch was second in our conference and we went down to the last three seconds with them. This game was the same way. It was close, we played hard and this group of seniors played really hard. You could tell they really wanted it."
Perhaps the most determined senior on the floor for Wauconda was point guard Diana Enriquez. She was relentless in her efforts to get to the basket and create for herself and her teammates.
Enriquez finished with a team-high 13 points, tying Berge for game-high scoring honors.
"It's been a tough season," Enriquez said. "We worked our butts off to get back into the game. We're a hard-working team. We might not be the best at what we do, but we work hard. I was praying that (Berge's layup off the press) wouldn't go in, but it did and we just fell short."
Nee added 7 points for Wauconda while Johnsburg got 8 points from Kallie DiTusa and 7 points each from Stephanie Cherwin and Schuld.
Grayslake Central 54, Senn 13: Grayslake Central put on a defensive clinic Wednesday at Wauconda.
The Rams almost completely shut down Senn to advance to the regional title game Friday against Johnsburg. They held Senn to single-digit points in every quarter, including a scoreless fourth quarter.
Senior guard Skyler Jessop, who didn't even touch the floor in the fourth quarter, had 10 steals to go along with a game-high 17 points.
"We definitely have been working on our defense a lot because we know that some games our offense won't be there," Jessop said. "But you can always play defense."
But the Rams (24-5) showed that they can play offense, too.
Of the 14 players who got minutes for Grayslake Central, 11 scored. Beth Arnold, Emma Shepard and Carson Sparkman each added 6 points for the Rams.
"We got off to a quick start, up 16-4 early and it just kind of continued from there," Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn said. "It's nice to have games like that every once in a while where everyone gets to play."