The top-seeded Vernon Hills girls basketball team needed a spark after a sluggish first quarter in its contest against Prairie Ridge at the Mundelein Holiday Classic.
They got that spark and plenty more from junior guard Haley Lieberman.
Her 3-pointer off the bench to start the third quarter ignited a 13-2 run that gave the Cougars the lead for good en route to a 58-42 win over the Wolves Thursday afternoon.
Vernon Hills (11-3) will face Grayslake North, a 48-37 winner over Libertyville, in the tournament's first semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Prairie Ridge (9-5) will face Libertyville at 3:30 pm.
"Haley had a real nice spark off the bench there to get us going," said Vernon Hills coach Paul Brettner. "I was nervous for sure (when we fell behind 11-4), and knew we needed a spark, and I looked down the bench. When Haley hit that 3 it got us going."
The Cougars trailed the Wolves 11-4 after one quarter before the pick-me-up from Lieberman got the offense going -- and the defense as well.
"I don't know if it was when I hit the 3 or not, but you could see that everyone started to click and we all started going," said Lieberman who led the Cougars with 11 points. "We all knew we could come back when we were down. We believed we could do it."
Prairie Ridge senior Sarah Le Beau kept the Wolves close by scoring a game-high 17 points, including five 3-pointers. Vermont-bound Cougars senior Sydney Smith scored 9 points to go with 9 boards and 7 assists.
Grayslake North 48, Libertyville 37: Grayslake North had a game plan for Libertyville at the Mundelein Holiday Classic, and the Knights executed the plan to near perfection.
The Knights held the Wildcats to just 4 first-half field goals and used a crushing 19-1 run into the third quarter to dispatch Libertyville 48-37 in a second round contest at Mundelein.
Grayslake North (7-5) will face top-seeded Vernon Hills in the tournament's first semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Friday, while Libertyville moves into the consolation bracket and faces Prairie Ridge at 3:30 p.m.
Senior Kendall Detweiler led the way offensively for the Knights, scoring 13 of her game-high 18 points in the first half as North built a 33-10 halftime advantage.
"(Kendall) is really having a great year," said Grayslake North coach Nate Flannery. "She is averaging something like 20 a game and it's not like she is throwing in 30 one night then 10 the next -- she has been so consistent throughout."
Helping Detweiler in the frontcourt was senior Brittany Thibeaux. She scored 9 of her 11 points in the first half and add 5 boards. Sophomore Erin Dunleavy came off the bench to score a season-high 12 points for Libertyville (6-7), which saw its 5-game winning streak snapped.
Mundelein 39, Niles West 26: After giving up over 60 points in a loss to Lake Park on Monday night, there was no question where the focus was for the Mundelein Mustangs: Defense.
'The girls came in and worked on Christmas Eve and then again this morning," said Mundelein coach Brian Evans. "We sat and watched them hustle and work on the drills and they took it to heart tonight."
The hosts used stifling defense through three quarters to limt the high-flying Niles West Wolves to just 10 field goals on their way to an impressive 39-26 victory.
Mundelein (8-5) moves on to the semifinals and will face Conant, a 50-36 winner over Loyola on Thursday night, at 8 p.m. Friday. Niles West will face Loyola at 5 p.m.
The well-balanced Mustangs scoring attack contributed to a 15-0 run that ran from the end of the first quarter to midway through the second period. That allowed the hosts to build a 28-10 halftime advantage.
Madison Davis and Maggie Mahar led the Mustangs with 8 points each. Niles West (5-6) was led by a game-high 11 points from Alex Galanapoulos.