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North Chicago seemed to be on its way to a less-than-sweet repeat halfway through Friday's Class 3A boys basketball state semifinal against top-ranked Springfield Lanphier.
The Warhawks lost twice last year in Peoria to finish fourth and faced an 11-point halftime deficit against the Lions in Carver Arena in Peoria.
But a big third quarter and the final 7 points of the game led North Chicago (25-6) to a 74-67 upset victory and a chance to become Lake County's first boys basketball state champion.
The Warhawks play for the title at 2 p.m. today against Peoria Central (27-3), a 60-50 semifinal winner over Hillcrest (26-6).
"I have a veteran team and some great sophomores," said North Chicago coach and alum Gerald Coleman, whose team trailed 45-34 at intermission. "We had a talk at halftime, we talked about adjustments we had to make and that's what they did in the second half."
North Chicago career scoring leader and two-time all-stater Aaron Simpson shot just 4-for-20 from the field but was 12-for-14 on free throws to score a game-high 22 points. The Illinois State-bound Simpson also had 6 assists.
Kevante Curry had 16 points and 11 of the Warhawks' 48-35 rebound advantage. Javairius Amos-Mays had 13 points and 7 rebounds and a jumper by Kurt Hall (12 points, 16 rebounds) with 53 seconds left broke a 67-67 tie.
North Chicago shot 12-for-26 from the field in the second half after a 9-for-33 start. Lanphier (28-4) shot just 9-for-33 in the second half as Larry Austin Jr. had 19 points and all-stater Everett Clemons had 11 on 5-for-16 shooting.
Peoria Central used a 27-11 advantage in the middle quarters to advance to the title game as Aldonis Foote scored 21 points. Jalen Loving led Hillcrest with 16 points.
The 8:15 p.m. Saturday title matchup turned out to be the one almost everyone wanted between top-ranked and two-time defending champion Simeon and unbeaten and second-ranked Proviso East.
Simeon (32-1) overcame a fourth-quarter scare for a 45-35 semifinal win over Bloom (28-4). Proviso East (32-0) survived a sluggish start for a 55-45 semifinal win over Rockford Auburn (31-3).
Simeon, which is trying to win a state-record sixth title, trailed 15-9 early in the second quarter and led only 36-34 after a 3-pointer by Donald Moore with 2:30 left.
But unanimous all-state junior Jabari Parker (10 points), who had missed 9 of 10 shots, was fouled as he hit a jumper with 1:59 left and completed the 3-point play to make it 39-34.
Jaylon Tate had 11 points and Steve Taylor had 9 points and 13 rebounds for Simeon. Lejavius Johnson led Bloom with 18 points.
Proviso East led Auburn just 4-2 after a quarter in a game with 44 turnovers but eventually built a 44-26 lead with 4:53 to play.
Paris Burns had 14 points and Sterling Brown had 13 points and 15 rebounds for the Pirates, who are looking for their fifth title and first since 1992. Wichita State-bound all-state guard Fred Van Vleet had 18 points and 10 rebounds for Auburn.
"Obviously this wasn't our best, well-played game of the year but we gutted through it," said Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce.