Trailing by as many as 10 points in the third quarter, Wauconda's girls basketball team found new life late in the period and early in the fourth quarter.
The No. 10-seeded Bulldogs rallied all the way to within 1 point with 6:34 left in the game.
But St. Viator coach Christina Jost, using a timeout along the way, got her team settled down and the Lions were able to close out strong for a 59-47 victory in the semifinal of their own Class 3A regional in Arlington Heights.
Sixth-seeded St. Viator (15-15) advanced to Friday's championship game against No. 3 Carmel (21-8) at 7 p.m. in the Cahill Gymnasium.
"Our defense was just getting a little shaky and we were rushing things on offense," said Lions junior Jessica Hohlweg, who scored 2 key buckets in the final period. "So we just had to slow down and play to our tempo."
Two baskets by sophomore Amber Head and one by junior Anna Wisniewski (both had 6 points) in the first two minutes of the final quarter pulled the Bulldogs (10-16) to within 39-38.
But senior Kelsey Trimble hit 2 big free throws to get the Lions back on track for a 41-38 lead with 6:12 left.
After an over-and-back violation by Wauconda and time out by Jost, Hohlweg hit a short bank shot and Kayne Stanley came up with a steal and layup to give the Lions a 46-38 cushion with 5:07 left.
Stanley finished with a team-high 12 points, including 5 free throws.
"They pushed the pressure up on us there," Stanley said of the Bulldogs' rally. "It just took a little time for us to settle down. I think we finally got a hold of things and became more relaxed and able to extend the lead again."
Two free throws by Susie Moynihan ((11 points) and a 6-footer by Hohlweg off an assist from Moynihan gave Viator a 50-38 lead. Wauconda never got closer than 8 points the rest of the way.
"We just stuck together as a team," said Lions junior Maddie McAteer, who scored 8 of her 9 points in the first half, including a 3-pointer and a 17-footer. "We get great leadership from the seniors (Erin Fabbri, Trimble and Sam Hogan) and our coaches (Jost and assistant Tom Blenner). They tell us to come together as a team."
Fabbri also added 9 points with 7-of-7 free throws while sophomore Maggie Leazer chipped in 8 with a 3-pointer in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs were led by senior Lauren Nee's 15 points and 8 apiece from Dani Strum and Jessie Wood.
Nee fouled out midway through the final quarter.
"Lauren is always a leader for us," said Wauconda coach Jaime Dennis. "Any time she comes off the floor we decline a little.
"But we've prided ourselves all season in having a variety of threats. I thought everyone played hard and emptied the tank. We told them to leave it all on the floor and they did."
The Bulldogs held Viator to single digits (9) in the third quarter.
"Holding them to 9 points is exactly what we wanted to do," Dennis said. "But we didn't come up on the offensive end like we wanted. We had opportunities early in the game that we didn't capitalize on.
"We talked all season about having ups and downs with our intensity and consistency. I think that hurt us. At moments, we looked great and then there were moments where we were flat and that was the difference."