Early in the Class 4A regional play-in game between host Rolling Meadows and Waukegan, it looked like the Bulldogs might run away with a victory.
Rolling Meadows, the 13th seed, righted the ship and edged No. 20 Waukegan 46-44.
The win pits the host Mustangs against No. 4 seed Zion-Benton at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"We're looking forward to playing Zion-Benton, " said Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich. "It beats watching the game from the bleachers."
Rolling Meadows (12-13) started out poorly, trailing 13-6 after one quarter and having committed 7 turnovers.
"We knew they were athletic," said Katovich. "and they hurt us early. We tried to prepare for that but it's different when the game starts. This was a game of survival. It doesn't matter if you win ugly or win pretty."
Tyler Williams (11 points) scored the first basket of the second quarter to give Waukegan a 15-6 lead.
The Mustangs' Pat Kramp began to connect, hitting for 7 points to pull the Mustangs to within 20-15 with 4:18 left in the first half. Matt Dolan (15 points, 7 rebounds) hit a basket, and Charlie Metzger's putback basket narrowed the gap to 20-19 at halftime.
Waukegan (6-19) went scoreless the last 5:33 of the second quarter.
"We played a real good first quarter," said Bulldogs coach Mike Wasielewski. "We forced turnovers, made good plays. But we also missed some layups. Had we made those, we might have controlled the game. But the story of our season is that we didn't execute that well and we missed a lot of free throws (5-for-14)."
Dolan scored 7 points and Kramp 5 as the Mustangs outscored Waukegan 16-13 to take a 35-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
With 2:50 left in the game Waukegan built a 42-38 lead on Andre Pope's offensive rebound basket.
A. J. Aluquin scored on a layup, with the assist going to Kramp. Metzger (7 points) tied the game at 42 with 1:41 left on 2 free throws.
With 1:20 left, the Bulldogs had a chance to go ahead but missed the front end of a one-and-bonus free throw attempt. Aluquin grabbed the rebound and found Kramp for the go-ahead basket with 1:10 left for a 44-42 lead. Aluquin finished with 5 assists.
Kramp hit 2 free throws with :27 left and a 46-42 Mustang lead.
Jachai Taylor (11 pts) scored with 0.9 left. The Mustangs threw a long inbounds pass to finish the game.
"Even though we were down," said Kramp, "we kept our composure. Our defense got better. We picked up some charges and defended the inside better. The free throws we hit at the end of the game were huge. We wanted to keep playing. We didn't want the season to end.
"Playing Zion-Benton is going to be a big challenge, and we're looking forward to it. Anything can happen in basketball. That's why they call it March Madness."