When the last whistle sounded, injury-riddled Crystal Lake South's girls basketball team had enough to produce a 56-48 win over Dundee-Crown in a semifinal contest of the Northern Illinois Holiday Classic held at McHenry High School Friday night.
"Dundee-Crown is a much-improved team that is very well-coached," said South coach Kyle McCaughn. "They really tested us and played good sound fundamentals. Our girls played a solid game and it was a good win."
Playing without starters Carly Nolan and Lauren Gauger, the Gators needed a crucial 8-0 run in the waning moments of the game to improve to 10-5 and advance to the championship game for the second straight season. They will play North Chicago at 12:30 p.m. today for the title while D-C will take on Crystal Lake Central at 11 a.m. for third place.
A putback by Jesania Laboy with 1:42 left in the game pulled the Chargers (5-9) within 3, 48-45. But the Gators, the defending tourney champs, responded with 5 points from Rachel Rasmussen and 2 free throws from Chantel Fanter to extend a slim 3-point lead to 11, 56-45. A 3-pointer by Lauren Lococo at the buzzer made the final margin 8 points.
"Our girls played really hard and were very competitive," said D-C coach Sarah Miller. "This tournament has really boosted our confidence. Crystal Lake South does a great job of running their sets but we gave them way too many easy shots. On offense we missed too many easy shots. We have to finish better."
Rasmussen paced the Gators with 17 points including 8 in the pivotal fourth quarter.
"With all the injuries we have to play more minutes," said Rasmussen. "My legs are a little sore. But it is nice to be playing for a championship again. Give D-C credit. They are a much improved team."
Fanter added 14 points with a pair of 3-pointers and Sara Mickow scored 12 with 10 rebounds for the winners.
D-C, which made 7-of-10 3-pointers, was led by Lococo with 12 points including a pair of 3s while Melissa Barker canned 3 treys for 9 points.
Leading by 8 at halftime, 26-18, the Gators came out sizzling in the third quarter. Making its first 4 shots of the second half, South extended its lead to 34-18 with 5:22 remaining in the quarter.
Fanter connected on a pair of midrange jumpers while Mickow had a putback and Rasmussen made a layup as the Gators built a double digit cushion.
"No matter what the situation, our coaches always give inspirational talks at halftime," said Rasmussen. "We are always ready to play to start the second half."