Elk Grove's girls basketball players went into Tuesday's Mid-Suburban East game at the Jean Walker Field House remembering a tough loss at Prospect last season.
That's when they let a sizable lead slip away in the final three minutes.
So after the Grenadiers built 14-point lead midway through the third quarter and watched the Knights cut it to 7 with 1:10 left in the game, you can understand why Kari Czeszewski was a bit concerned.
"That was kind of nerve-wracking," said the Grens senior guard (7 points). "It was upsetting. But our basketball sense has grown a lot since last season. We were a younger team then."
This time, the Grens made sure the Knights got no closer as senior Stephanie Solis' fastbreak layup extended the lead to 9 and the visitors eventually prevailed 52-41.
"We knew we had to step up," said Solis, who hit a big 3-pointer that gave Elk Grove a 28-20 lead with 5:40 left in the third quarter and sparked a 10-1 run that also included a 3-pointer by Czeszewski. "Prospect is always a tough game.
"This was an important game for us because we are right behind Rolling Meadows."
The Grens (15-8, 6-1) stayed 1 game back behind the Mustangs (20-1, 7-0) in the MSL East heading into Friday's showdown, when the two teams face off in Elk Grove.
"Rolling Meadows (ranked No. 3 in Class 4A) will be a huge game," Solis added. "We all have to step up."
Solis stepped up with a career-high 11 points against Prospect.
"Stephanie has been playing well the last few games," said Grens coach Kathie Swanson. "This is a tough week. We have to finish off games. We've got to play 'not to lose', but to win."
Senior Diamond Boyd (team-high 15 points, 3 steals) made sure the Grens didn't lose in the final moments as she scored on a rebound layup and added 2 free throws in the final five seconds to seal the verdict.
One night earlier, she became one of about a handful of Elk Grove players to score 1,000 points. That's list includes Swanson's assistant coach Alison Schultz.
As usual, it was senior point guard Kelly Naughton directing the Grens' offense.
The Jacksonville State recruit handed out 5 assists with her 12 points and 7 rebounds. Teammate Melissa Solorio added 6 rebounds 4 points
Prospect's top scorer was sophomore Taylor Will, who drove her way for a game-high 20 points.
The Knights (11-11, 2-5) were without two starters.
Coach Ashley Graham said forward Catherine Sherwood was sidelined with a head injury. Senior guard Adriane Falagario will have an MRI on her knee.
Nursing a 23-18 lead at intermission, the Grens outscored Prospect 17-5 in the third quarter.
"All teams go through adversity, whether it's injuries or some bump in the road." Graham said. "Basketball does not define who you are. How you respond to adversity does.
"I thought for three quarters we showed that. But I didn't see it in the third quarter. We lost our pulse for a while and that was disappointing to see."
The Knights charged back in the final eight minutes, getting a big 3-pointer from Michele Molini to spark a 12-2 run capped by Trisha Benson's driving layup.
Junior Marissa Pacini had a key bucket and 2 free throws during the rally and finished with a career-high 11 points.
"I thought we battled back in the fourth quarter," Graham said. "Unfortunately, by then, it was too late. But I liked the effort there."