A hot start for Stevenson's girls basketball team became lukewarm by the end of its Class 4A regional semifinal on Tuesday night.
Still, No. 5 seed Stevenson cooked up a 50-38 victory over No. 12 seed Conant at Wheeling.
The Patriots (19-8) next play against No. 4 Palatine (20-9) in the Wheeling regional final at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Stevenson hits its first 4 shots and jumped out to an 11-0 lead until Wheeling made a couple of free throws with a second left in the opening quarter.
"We had played a great first half," Stevenson coach Tom Dineen said. "We played very well defensively, and I thought we looked sharp offensively as well."
The Patriots' defense forced the Cougars (13-15) into 10 turnovers in the first half and 16 in the game.
Stevenson had led 22-9 by halftime -- and maybe it was a bit too comfortable a margin.
"Something I preached at halftime was I knew Conant would battle back," Dineen said. "(Conant) plays hard defensively and did that in the second half. We shot ourselves in the foot. We didn't take care of the ball and some of the decisions we made were not very good.
"As a coach, I'm not comfortable with too many leads. The game is a game of runs, and I knew (Conant) was going to put one in there. We just didn't stop them a couple of times. You can't let teams get a hot hand and get back into the game. We had too many defensive breakdowns."
The Patriots' Sophia Way made a pair of free throws to finish a 6-0 run with 5:30 left in the third quarter for a 28-9 Stevenson lead.
"It's been a theme this season that we need to keep expanding those leads, not let teams like this make it a close game," said Way, who had a team-high 16 points. "We have to learn how to put a team away."
Conant put together a couple of runs for a comeback with a 13-5 clip and closed the quarter trailing 33-22.
Twice in the fourth quarter Conant got within 8 points. Lexi Zades dropped in one of her 3 three-pointers that got lead down to 37-29 with 4:05 left.
After Stevenson bumped the lead back up to 14 points. Taylor Buford hit a short-jumper of her 14 points and 8 rebounds for a 45-31 lead with 1:45 remaining.
Cougars once again fought back as Lilly Chavarria dropped in a trey and made the score 46-38 with 32 seconds on the clock.
The Patriots' Way and Jessica Burke each sank two frees a piece in the final seconds.
"It's hard to come back against a good team," Conant coach Dan Travers said. "We tried to come back. If we made a few more few throws, we could've cut it close.
"We had a great contribution from our bench. (Stevenson) was a well-coached team and they play to their strengths.
Palatine 46, Libertyville 33: Palatine broke a 4-game losing streak to start their postseason. The Pirates were still playing without McKenzie Wiedemann, who is out with a torn ACL, but stopped a hot Libertyville team that was riding a 6-game winning streak.
Samantha Heuertz (10 points) hit consecutive three-pointers in the final minute of the second quarter as Palatine built a 21-13 lead.
"It just happened -- I wanted to give some momentum for the team," Heuertz said. "It was intense and somebody needed to step up and hit the shots."
Palatine kept its poise and kept Libertyville (15-14) from getting close.
The Pirates held a 34-26 lead going into he final quarter. Nia Pappas scored 9 of her 21 points in the final quarter.
"We were coming off the worst game of the season against Elk Grove last week," Palatine coach Leslie Schock. "I didn't know if they were going to come out and rebound from that loss.
"I thought our girls played one of the hardest games they've played all year. We had to make some adjustments going into this game. Defensively, the girls were all dialed in and played team defense."
Dana Kym Libertyville with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
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