For 3 quarters, Naperville Central controlled its semifinal boys basketball game against Fremd in the Wildcat Hardwood Classic at Wheeling on Friday.
But the unbeaten Vikings turned the tide in the fourth quarter and came away with a 44-37 victory, which puts them in tonight's 8:45 championship game against St. Viator.
The Redhawks' zone defense was effective, keeping Fremd (12-0) from attacking the basket until the fourth quarter, when it ran off 10 consecutive points, turning a 31-27 deficit into a 37-31 advantage with 3:25 remaining.
Ben Carlson (9 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) and Riley Glassmann (game-high 13 points and 4 assists) each scored 6 points in the fourth quarter, and Matt Ochoa (8 points, 3 rebounds and 4 steals) added 5.
Trailing 35-31, the Redhawks (7-4) came out of their 2-3 zone and began to pressure Fremd with double-teams, but the Vikings made 5 of 7 from the foul line in the final minute.
Naperville Central led 12-2 after the first quarter and 17-14 at halftime. Fremd's first basket came 28 seconds into the second quarter. Ryan Antony scored 6 of his team-best 10 points in the first half. Six-8 Nick Czarnowski (8 points) was a force in the middle of the zone. He blocked 3 shots, and his presence discouraged Fremd from attacking the basket for most of 3 quarters.
He and Ochoa battled for position on every Redhawk possession.
"Ochoa is a warrior," Glassmann said. "He did an awesome job on Czarnowski."
"I like to make sure whoever I'm guarding doesn't have a good night," Ochoa said. "It's fun playing a tough opponent like Czarnowski."
"We knew they were going to be physical," Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. "To win a game like that, you have to execute and make a couple of buckets down the stretch. We didn't do that tonight."
"I thought we attacked the gaps better in the second half," Fremd coach Bob Widlowski said. "Conor Peters gave us a spark off the bench. He and Riley hit some big shots for us.
"Ochoa did a great job," Widlowski said. "Matt was up to the challenge."
Central will play in Saturday's 7:15 p.m. third-place game against Prospect (8-5).