Those costly missed free throws with no time on the clock at Lake Forest. Those pair of heartbreaking losses to Stevenson.
After Libertyville's thrilling 35-33 win over host Stevenson in a Class 4A regional final, those sour memories are history for Claire Keefe.
It was just on Jan. 31 when the veteran forward misfired on 2 foul shots with no time left, allowing host Lake Forest to escape with a one-point win.
"It killed me," Keefe said. "Then in the last Stevenson game (a two-point loss in double overtime) I couldn't get them either (3 of 6, including 1 of 3 in the second OT). They just weren't going in."
So before and after every practice this month, she shot 100 free throws, about 70 more than she usually does.
That's why she was so confident when she went to the free-throw line with 5.1 seconds left in a 33-33 tie Friday night. Keefe made both shots, despite Stevenson calling a timeout in between tosses. And when Ashley Richardson's desperation shot from well beyond the three-point arc fell short, Libertyville had its first regional championship since 2011.
While No. 6 Libertyville (18-11) advances to play No. 2 Fremd (25-6) in Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. sectional semifinal at Libertyville, third-seeded and North Suburban Conference champion Stevenson sees its season end at 23-6.
In four seasons with Richardson as their point guard, the Patriots went 95-26, but with no postseason hardware.
"I'm just so happy with what I accomplished and so happy about this team," Richardson said after scoring 9 points and hustling for a game-high 10 rebounds in her final game as a Patriot. "It's probably been my favorite team to play on in my four years."
Down the stretch, Richardson and Keefe, both four-year varsity players, were determined to win the game for their respective team. With the score tied 31-31, Keefe cut to the basket and finished a nifty feed from Riley Weis with 1:10 left.
Richardson, as she did numerous times in her career, answered with a clutch play of her own, muscling up a left-handed shot in the lane that banked in with 28 seconds to go.
Libertyville called a timeout with 8.3 seconds left, after Keefe saved an errant pass in the corner. The Wildcats again went to Keefe, who penetrated the lane.
Richardson lunged to make a block and, much to the disbelief of the Patriots, was called for a foul.
"I'm going to say yes," a smiling Keefe said after a pause when asked if she thought Richardson fouled her.
"No," Richardson said. "Block, block ... block party. But that's how the game goes sometimes."
When Keefe went to the line, her coach couldn't have been more confident.
"We knew we would be in position against Stevenson again to have a 2- or 1-point game," said coach Greg Pedersen, whose Wildcats suffered a pair of two-point losses to the Patriots in NSC action. "We had stuff in our pocket to run for Claire because it was her time. We knew she would make it, because she needed to wipe out that other stuff."
After giving up 45 and 59 points to Stevenson in the first two meetings, Libertyville ditched its box-and-one defense and played man to man. Weis had Richardson on every possession.
Stevenson went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal in the first half, but went into the break tied 19-19 after Klaire Steffens hit a pair of late free throws. Pedersen called Weis, who limited Richardson to 10 shots, the "unsung hero of the game."
Patriots coach Ashley Graham said Libertyville's different defensive strategy didn't faze her team.
"We were prepared that they would be in a box and one on a make (made shot) by their scorer, and on any shot they missed they would be in man to man," Graham said.
At game's end, after Libertyville's players stormed the court, the Wildcats sprinted back to their bench. Keefe arrived first and jumped into the arms of Pedersen, who was celebrating his first regional title. He and Keefe shared a long embrace, surrounded by the team.
"That mutual moment we had at the end, it was for the year, but it was also for Claire and me," Pedersen said. "It's four years of hard work getting here."