For the second time in seven days, Kaneland found itself scrambling to make an improbable second half comeback against a formidable Rochelle squad.
This time around, the never-say-die Knights finished the job.
Kaneland scored 8 unanswered points in the final two frenetic minutes of regulation, then tacked on the first 6 points in overtime to secure an emotional 65-61 victory in Friday night's Rochelle Class 3A regional final.
The Knights (17-10) advanced to Tuesday's Sycamore Class 3A sectional semifinal, where they will face the winner of today's Marengo regional title game between Rockford East and Belvidere.
Senior Marcel Neil calmly connected on 15 of 17 free throw attempts and finished with a game-high 21 points while sophomore Thomas Williams caught fire late, with 17 of his 19 points coming in the second half and overtime.
"We always have that fight," said Neil. "That fourth quarter we always dig deep, and tonight we hit some big shots and big free throws down the stretch."
"It was just a collective group of guys who kept fighting and fighting and fighting," added Kaneland coach Brian Johnson, who only utilized a seven-man rotation.
Kaneland trailed 30-12 in last Friday's 59-57 Northern Illinois Big 12 East loss to the Hubs and dug itself a similar 37-21 hole early in the third.
The Knights' deficit stood at 56-47 when Rochelle's 6-foot-8 defensive anchor David Newton fouled out with 2:52 left in the fourth.
Williams completed a 3-point play when he was fouled banking in a tough shot off the glass. Neil followed his own miss for another conventional 3-point play to shave the deficit to 57-55 with 1:29 left.
After a Rochelle turnover, Williams was fouled after rebounding Neil's miss and dropped in both free throws to tie the score. Rochelle (21-9) held for the last shot, but Matt Rosenwinkel missed a last second off-balance jumper.
"When we got them in foul trouble, we felt could take it to the rim for easy baskets and free throws," Williams said.
Williams' driving basket to start overtime gave Kaneland its first lead since 8-6. Drew David and Williams both hit a pair of free throws for a 63-57 lead, but Will Widick gave the Hubs life with a 3-pointer.
Kaneland was called for traveling with 11 seconds left, but Grant Prusator's potential game-tying 3-pointer from the corner came up short and Neil grabbed the rebound and was fouled with 1.1 left.
David and Tyler Heinle chipped in 8 points each for the Knights, who made 29 of 35 attempts from the line. Neil and Williams grabbed 11 rebounds each as Kaneland enjoyed a 40-27 edge on the boards.
Prusator's 14 points led the Hubs while Derek White and Newton added 11 points each.
"Kaneland saved their press for the second half again and our smaller guards had trouble with that," said Hubs coach Tim Thompson. "Then when Newton fouled out we lost our low post presence and size shifted to their favor.""