Joliet Central hit the West Aurora girls basketball team with a 10-point unanswered run Wednesday night in Plainfield.
But it would prove to be the only leads of the game for the Steelmen as the Blackhawks more than rebounded, accruing 40 points by halftime.
Liz Skaggs’ inside scores to close the third quarter and open the final quarter provided West Aurora all the cushion it would need in its 67-53 victory in the second semifinal of the Class 4A Plainfield North regional.
West Aurora (19-9), the sixth seed of the Joliet Central sectional complex, will seek its first postseason title in eight years Friday night against third-seeded Oswego (22-7).
The Blackhawks defeated Oswego in the second game of the season at their Thanksgiving tournament.
“(Oswego) is a totally different team from when we played them early in the season,” West Aurora coach Connie Siljendahl said.
After No. 11 Joliet Central (13-13) scored 10 straight first-quarter points, West Aurora responded with a 17-2 run behind its defensive pressure and second-chance points.
Alexis Wiggins, Taylor Jacobsen and Carly Frauenhoff all hit 3-pointers during the quarter-ending blitz.
“It’s either you win or you go home,” said Wiggins, who engineered the Blackhawks’ attack from her point-guard slot. “We had to bring it out in the first quarter. We were definitely getting the ball more (than Joliet Central).”
Abriya Zeitz had a slow start for West Aurora, but the Blackhawks’ veteran forward rebounded in strong fashion, scoring all 14 of her game-high points after the opening quarter.
“My shots started off long, even in the warm-ups,” Zeitz said.
West Aurora was a showcase in balanced scoring on the night, and Joliet Central was equally well-rounded as all 12 of its players who saw action scored.
But the Blackhawks had two defining runs that made the final score as academic as it was misleadingly closer than the contest actually played out.
Jacobsen and Skaggs were both in double figures with 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Ashley Williams’ 8 points augmented the 7 points Wiggins authored, and yet another guard, reserve Frauenhoff, hit three 3-pointers to finish with 9 points.
West Aurora built several double-digit second-quarter leads, and Skaggs’ buzzer-beater gave the team a 40-29 lead at the break.
Joliet Central, led by Chavon Banks’ 13 points, reduced its deficit to single figures early in the third quarter.
The Blackhawks completely seized command, though, as Skaggs’ score to open the fourth gave the team its largest lead of the night at 57-35.
Skaggs’ score concluded the Blackhawks’ second 17-2 run of the game.
“It was a tough night,” Joliet Central coach Brian Reed said. “We didn’t box out tonight. We beat ourselves with turnovers. The pressure got to us.”