The Class 2A Westmont boys basketball regional final will present Immaculate Conception coach Darren Howard a situation no coach desires -- a chance to beat the same opponent three straight times.
The top seed at Westmont, Immaculate Conception beat No. 4 Westmont 71-52 in Wednesday's first regional semifinal. In the second semi, No. 2 Walther Lutheran topped No. 3 Timothy Christian 64-60.
IC, whose 24-3 record is identical to the 1966-67 squad as the best in IC boys history, has already defeated Walther twice. The Knights get a third shot at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the regional final.
On Wednesday Howard appreciated his team's intensity, if not the 16 turnovers.
"We've got to clean that up a little bit because obviously Friday's going to be much more difficult," he said.
IC's Brian Harvey nicked Westmont for 10 of his game-high 25 points in the first quarter, pacing a 19-8 first-quarter lead.
That started slipping in the second when Westmont's Kevin Good exploded for 14 of his 21 points and Westmont (17-13) crept within 34-26 at halftime. In the locker room Howard shifted 6-foot-2 athlete Demetrius Carr onto the 6-foot Good.
"My goal was just to keep him out of the middle so he won't get any open shots," Carr said.
The junior accomplished the mission and then some. Good went 0 of 4 from the floor in the third quarter, while Carr scored 11 of his 18 points.
He hit a pair of 3s and Harvey added another as the Knights obeyed another of Howard's halftime adjustments, get the rebound and go. A 21-4 third-quarter run put the game away. Guard John Cheng added 15 points.
Though Walther Lutheran (16-12) had lost twice to IC in Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division play, the Broncos had beaten Timothy Christian 60-40 on Jan. 28.
There was no blowout Wednesday.
"We came out with more intensity this time and ready to play them," said Trojans senior guard Matt Robinson, who in his last game had one of his best, 13 points and 4 offensive rebounds.
After 10-10 and 26-26 ties at one quarter and halftime, Timothy (15-14) got on the wrong end of separate 11-point deficits in the second half. Each time, they answered.
With Jon Fuqua working baseline, the Broncos led 41-30 at one point before Robinson and Chris Ridolphi led the charge back. A Danny Leach 3 pulled the Trojans within 43-39 after three quarters.
Walther, which made 13 of 20 fourth-quarter free throws, led 56-45 with 3:24 left in the game. Timothy's Brothers VanderBrug, Tyler and Connor, led another rally. Matt Morrison hit 2 free throws with 21.7 seconds left to get within 59-58, but Jeff Walker and Patrell Green clinched the Walther win at the line.
Trojans coach Jack LeGrand saw the key not in the big deficits, but in 2 second-quarter turnovers that broke momentum.
"Two quick steals by them to score," he said. "We were getting ready to go into halftime up by, like, four, and all of a sudden it was tied."
Leach ended his junior season with a team-high 21 points. Three-year varsity player Matt Morrison ended his prep career with good thoughts.
"I was lucky to play with these great guys and have such wonderful teammates," he said. "It's really meant a lot to me."