Lake Park erased a double-digit halftime deficit and survived a number of tense moments during a topsy-turvy fourth quarter to beat third seeded Oak Park-River Forest 51-48 in the Class 4A Leyden regional semifinal at Franklin Park on Tuesday.
The Lancers (16-14) slowed the pace of the game and won what became a free-throw contest late to the steal a win few, if anyone, could have predicted.
"We're a young team," Lake Park coach Josh Virostko said. "I told them, as long as you stay in the game, the pressure is going to be on Oak Park, they're clearly on paper the better team."
With 2:32 remaining in the fourth quarter, Conner Vance gave Lake Park its first lead since a short-lived advantage in the second quarter by making a pair from the free throw line -- a place that would play a huge part in deciding the contest.
The team's traded three-point plays, one on a drive-and-foul by Huskies senior Jason Gant, the other on a corner shot from beyond the arc by Cameron Aswegen, before Oak Park point guard Erick Locke tied the game at 45 with a beautiful up-and-under layup. It would be the last field goal of the game for either team.
Senior Sean Moore, who led the Lancers with 12 points, hit two free throws after he was fouled following a patient offensive set to take the lead 47-45, with less than a minute remaining. Marcus McDaniel made a clean steal on Erick Locke and was fouled.
After McDaniel made 1 of 2, Locke bulled his way inside to earn two free throws of his own, both of which he made to make the score 50-47. Locke then made a steal of his own as the Huskies (20-7) pressed, earning another trip back to the line. That's where it all went wrong for the game's high scorer.
Locke, who had 20 points, missed his final seven, including three after he was fouled by Moore that could have tied the game with 4.9 seconds left.
Each team gave the other opportunities late, but the Lancers were better able to take advantage.
"We stayed in the game, they got tight," Virostko said. "The problem is that our kids weren't used to being in that situation either, so they got a little tight. We were lucky enough to hold on at the end."
The Lancers will face Glenbard North, which beat West Chicago 51-48 in the other semifinal, at 7 p.m. Friday.