Top-seeded McHenry saved its best for last.
Outscoring second-seeded Crystal Lake South 12-2 in the final three minutes, the Warriors rallied for a 51-44 win over the upset-minded Gators In the championship game of the Class 4A Cary-Grove regional Friday night.
"We were tentative until the fourth quarter when we got the ball inside and hit some 3s," said McHenry coach Tim Paddock. "South's defense was tough and we had trouble penetrating. The guys stuck with it and we got a regional championship. Give South credit -- they played great."
Playing without junior center Max Meitzler, the Gators (8-22) led throughout the game and held a 3-point, 42-39 lead after a layup from Nick Geske with 3:53 remaining. South managed only 2 points the rest of the game.
A 3-pointer by McHenry's Shane Varvil tied the game at 42 with three minutes left.
Robert Tonyan's layup off a perfect bounce pass from Jasper Taylor gave McHenry the lead for good at 44-42 with 2:26 remaining.
The Warriors ended a 9-0 run with pair of free throws from Danny Glick with 1:04 left to give McHenry a 48-42 lead with 1:06.
The gutsy Gators pulled with in 4 of the Warriors at 48-44 on a layup by Eric Schiller with 44 seconds left. Those were the last points Crystal Lake South scored.
The Warriors sealed the win when Varvill made 3-of-4 from the line in the final 20 seconds.
Tonyan paced the Warriors with 15 points, including 6 in the fourth quarter. The senior center, who had a momentum-changing dunk in the fourth quarter also grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked 3 shots.
"We did a good job on Tonyan until the fourth quarter," said South coach Dan DeBruycker. "We let him catch the ball too deep in the post and he got easy shots."
Varvil added 9 points for the Warriors (12-15) with 2 3-pointers.
Geske paced Crystal Lake South with 17 points while Ahsmann, playing in his last game as a Gator, tallied 11 with 3 3-pointers and dished out 5 assists.
"The guys played with great, great effort in the two games in the tournament and at the end of the season," said DeBruycker. "We believed we could win the regional tonight and the kids didn't worry about the record. We just had a breakdown on defense in the fourth quarter and had way too many crucial turnovers."