Bench players are supposed to provide a spark.
South Elgin's reserves ignited a full-blown blaze Thursday in leading the Storm to a 65-52 victory over Ridgewood in the second semifinal of the 89th Annual Chuck Dayton Holiday Classic at DeKalb.
South Elgin (7-3) advances to face Geneva (12-0) in the title game on Friday at 8 p.m. Geneva defeated Marmion 72-30 in Thursday's first semifinal.
South Elgin's bench outscored Ridgewood 22-10, led by 11 points from 6-3 junior Noah Rohr.
After Rohr's putback beat the second quarter buzzer and drew the Storm within 29-28 of Ridgewood (9-3), first-year coach Brett Johnson rewarded Rohr and fellow reserves C.J. Bradford and Kreon Roberts with starting nods to begin the second half.
Playing alongside starters Logan Atkins (team-high 18 points) and Kyle Scully (8 points, 5 rebounds), the reserves helped fuel a 12-3 run to open the second half, thereby changing the complexion of the game in South Elgin's favor.
One key sequence involved a pair of offensive rebounds on the same possession by Roberts. Atkins eventually cashed in with a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 surge.
"I thought we just came out with a lot of energy," Rohr said. "We rebounded the ball well, we made shots and we controlled the pace of the game and didn't turn the ball over. It was a good team game."
South Elgin outscored the Rebels 21-9 in the third quarter to take a 49-38 lead. Storm reserves outscored Ridgewood's reserves in the second half 15-4.
"I thought they brought some extra energy at the end of the second (quarter) with open shots and a little more toughness and quickness and moving their feet on defense," Johnson said of his bench. "I wanted to reward that group of kids because they played hard and it paid off." South Elgin shot 53.2 percent from the field (25 of 47) while limiting the Rebels to 37.7 percent (20 of 53). The Storm won the rebounding battle 35-22 and scored 18 second-chance points as a result compared to 8 for the Rebels.
The victory sets up an all-Upstate Eight showdown for the championship.
"Geneva's going to be tough, and that's what we want," Johnson said. "We want to play the best teams to get better. That's the ultimate goal and the goal going in. We've put ourselves in position to play a team that's undefeated and we'll see what we can do."