After one quarter of action between highly regarded state contenders, the battle was on in Palatine on Tuesday night.
Mid-Suburban League girls basketball powers Rolling Meadows and Fremd were tied at 15-15.
But the nationally-ranked Mustangs flexed their muscles in the next two periods, leading by as many as 18 points before taking a 58-43 lead into the final quarter.
Then they took Fremd's best punch before surviving 71-68 in a rematch of last year's MSL title game and sectional championship.
The Vikings closed within 3 points and had the ball with less than six seconds left in regulation.
However, the Mustangs forced a turnover in the final seconds, preventing Fremd from getting off a potential game-tying 3-pointer as a pass was deflected and ended up in the hands of Meadows senior Jenny Vliet as the buzzer sounded.
Senior Alexis Glasgow (game-high 26 points), senior Ashley Montanez (18 points) and senior Jackie Kemph (13 points), who once again was dazzling with her 17 assists, led the offense for Meadows which improved to 6-0 against the 5-1 Vikings.
"We definitely struggled at the free throw line in the last quarter (5-of-16) and that cost us the lead," said Glasgow, who tossed home a game-high seven 3-pointers. "To be honest, I thought we played excellent team basketball.
"Jackie had 17 assists. That's why Ashley and I got all our points. We were just being fed all those great passes."
Meadows passed its first major test but has another big one Saturday against Whitney Young at 3:15 p.m. at Larkin High School.
"This was our first big game of the season so we had sone getting used to the big atmosphere," Glasgow said "Both teams had a lot of energy on the floor. That's the kid of energy we need to translate to Saturday because that game will be crazy as well."
Glasgow hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first two minutes of the second quarter. Kemph followed with a 3-point play and layup, both coming on fast breaks to give the a 26-18 lead.
Fremd would never get closer than 6 points until the final minute when Haley Gorecki (23 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists) hit 2 free throws with 52.4 seconds left to make it 69-64.
With DePaul women's coach Doug Bruno on hand watching, Gorecki added 2 more free throws with 32.5 seconds left and the 6-foot junior race down the court to hit a 14-footer in the lane making it 71-68 with 6.7 seconds left.
Meadow missed 2 free throws with 5.8 seconds left, giving Fremd its final chance.
"There are two schools of thoughts on the missed free throws (in the fourth quarter), said Mustangs coach Ryan Kirkorsky. "We can either ignore it and don't shoot any (today in practice) or you shoot a bunch.
"But these are kids that I'm going to trust 10 out of 10 times at the free throw line They didn't hit them tonight, but they've made tons of big shots for our program and I want them there again."
Glasgow sure was hitting some big 3-pointers, including a few from well beyond the arc.
But the team's free-throw shooting was not as accurate.
"It was like a sectional championship (atmosphere) so I think that kind of got into our heads," Glasgow said. "And they came out with a lot more energy in the fourth quarter."
Freshman forward Grace Tworek was full of energy, scoring 8 of her 10 points in the game's final six minutes. She also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
"Grace played outstanding," said Fremd coach Dave Yates. "Defensively, she made a big difference, rebounding, blocking shots and stealing the ball. That's a freshman, so that's exciting. She was doing the big things to get us back into the game."
Sophomore Brianna Lewis did a lot of big things, too, collecting 16 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds and 2 steals.
Hannah LaBarge added 6 points and Emily Bieda had 5 with a big 3-pointer in the second quarter. Byrana Hopkins grabbed 4 rebounds while Erica Simios had 2 big baskets in the first quarter.
"We had multiple sophomores and freshmen out there for the first time in a big game)," Yates added. "When you get down to it, big-game experience matters and they had it, and I think we'll get it.
"We looked young at times, but we battled and we had a shot. We had a good first quarter then kind of disappeared in the middle quarters. Then we battled like all get out. That's a really good sign for this group. The sky's the limit for these girls."
Rolling Meadows' lead grew to 64-50 was in control when Montanez made her first 3-pointer of the season with 4:56 remaining.
"Ashley was a complete player for us on both ends of the floor," said Kirkorsky, who also saw his 6-foot senior pull down 8 rebounds.
Vliet led the 2012-13 Class AA state runners-up with 9 rebounds.
"We didn't have great composure in the fourth quarter but we made enough plays to win," Kirkorsky said.