Aurora Christian's R.D. Lutze, on fire, curled off a screen at the top of the key and buried yet another 3-point shot for a 1-point lead. The home fans went nuts.
IC Catholic came downcourt, approaching the last minute of this 2A regional final. Rhashaun Epting coolly drained his own 3 for the silencer.
"It was in the rhythm and I felt it. I knew I was off a little bit, but a shooter's got to keep shooting, that's what I did," Epting said. "I thought we were going to work for a layup, but it was in the rhythm of the game."
It triggered a 7-point mini-run that carried No. 1 seed IC to a 62-57 victory Friday for its first regional title since 2008, avenging not only a Feb. 19 loss to the No. 3 Eagles but soothing memories of consecutive 2-point regional final losses, including last year to Aurora Christian at the buzzer.
"We told the guys all day long, the only thing we're thinking of is walking out with that regional plaque and cutting down the nets. You don't think of anything else, no doubt in your head," said coach T.J. Tyrrell, whose Knights will face Winnebago, a 49-43 winner over Byron, in Tuesday's Bureau Valley sectional semifinal.
IC (22-6) led 56-54 on Epting's 3 with 1:09 left to play -- "he had the backbone to take that shot," said Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara -- then forced 3 turnovers plus an Epting block.
Lutze banked in his sixth 3 of the night with 3.7 seconds left to cut IC's lead to 60-57, but 2 Sean Sutton free throws and a Clark Brinkman steal sealed the outcome. Active IC made 25 free throws on 37 attempts; Aurora Christian (16-11) was 7 of 14.
"We just got really intense and we knew that we need to buckle down," said Knights guard Anthony Taylor, who stole the ball and hit 3 free throws in the last 22 seconds. "We lost to them last year and we didn't want a repeat of that so we got the job done tonight."
Aurora Christian's Wes Wolfe scored 10 of his 11 points to keep within 18-14 of IC after one quarter, but the Eagles didn't believe they got the job done in the first half. Epting, Brinkman and Jordan Rowell spearheaded 16 first-half rebounds, leading to IC's 36-27 halftime lead.
"We got in a hole that first half, we were down 11 or 12 that one juncture there," McNamara said. "We just didn't rebound real well. They did a good job on the offensive boards. They just got the ball. I thought a lot of that was a lot of the game."
Lutze, whose career-tying 25 points led all scorers to Epting's 20, erupted with an 11-point third quarter and Zach Singer's putback at the third-quarter horn tied the score 44-44 entering the last quarter.
Aurora Christian's Juwan Sisco scored inside for a 46-44 Eagles lead at 7:23 of the fourth quarter but they didn't tally again until a Lutze 3 four minutes later, letting the Knights regain momentum.
"They came out with their best effort this game," Lutze said. "They beat us, they deserved it."