Grayslake Central's boys basketball team had plenty of bounces go its way on Tuesday night.
Michael Benko was just one of several Rams left in amazement after he took an inbound pass and tipped the ball off the glass for a basket in the third quarter.
"We were supposed to have a screen in front of me," said Benko, who dropped in 10 points and had 4 rebounds, "so I could get a lob there. But one of their guys got in front of me. I was able to get a little of my hand on it. I guess it went in. I went back to the bench and one of the coaches asked me if I called it. I said back to him, "I don't have to -- it's my last name.' "
Eighth-seeded Grayslake Central went on to knock off No. 9 Northside Prep 57-40 in a Class 3A regional semifinal. Top-seeded North Chicago rolled past No. 17 Elmwood Park 102-39 in the other semifinal at Grayslake Central.
The Rams (16-11) will host the Warhawks (23-5) at 7 p.m. Friday in the regional final.
Malcolm Reed finished with a team-high 17 points for Grayslake Central. His night included a bank shot to end the opening quarter at the buzzer from 22 feet.
Northside Prep (19-10) saw its best shooter, Spencer Foley with a game-high 19 points, leave the game with an injured ankle. He hobbled through 3 free throws to give the Mustangs a 23-20 lead with 4:34 left but did not return to action.
The loss of Foley helped the Rams force the Mustangs into 10 second-quarter turnovers and generate a 13-0 run as Grayslake Central led 33-23 lead at the break.
"I thought the pressure got to them in the second quarter," Grayslake Central coach Brian Moe said. "When Foley went down, it took some wind out of their sails. I thought we did a nice job of trapping and rotating, getting a few steals leading to buckets."
Joey Mudd scored 5 of his 14 points in the second quarter and also contributed 4 steals.
"We've been working on rotating off the ball on defense all the time," Mudd said. "We do that a lot in practice. I've been working off my teammates' vibes. They all bring me up, and I bring them up with me."
The Mustangs tried to close the gap early in the third quarter with a 7-1 run, cutting the margin down to 4 points at 34-30 with 6:01 left. But the Rams scored 12 unanswered points and led by 16 by the end of the third quarter.
Grayslake Central doesn't have a dominant scoring leader, but the Rams seem to excel at finding the hot hand.
"We knew coming into this season that we don't have any superstars on offense," Mudd said. "Charlie Anderson has picked things up on shooting and Reed can get to the hole. The best thing is that we can distribute the ball and get guys open shots."