Danielle Dennis isn't accustomed to playing so little in a girls basketball game.
Between catching a finger in the eye in the first quarter and foul trouble, the York senior guard spent a chunk of Tuesday night's game on the Dukes' bench. But when she got back on the floor, Dennis made the most of her time.
Dennis notched 19 points, 8 rebounds and 3 steals to lead the Dukes to a 45-37 victory against St. Charles North at the Class 4A Wheaton Warrenville South regional semifinals. She also finished with 4 fouls.
"The second I went in there I just wanted to get at them right away because I was a little angry about the eye," said Dennis, her eye fine after the game.
The seventh-seeded Dukes will meet No. 2 WW South at 7 p.m. Thursday in the regional final looking for their first regional title since 2009.
York (19-9) clearly got a boost each time its leading scorer re-entered the game.
"We need her. We need her out there for four quarters," added York coach Brandon Collings. "I mean, if she's not in foul trouble she doesn't leave the floor. So the amount she was out today is more than we are used to losing our No. 1 scorer there. They didn't have an answer for her. They didn't have anybody there that can guard her."
York took the lead for good in the second quarter. Trailing 13-10 after the first, the Dukes outscored St. Charles North 20-4 for a 30-17 halftime lead, their biggest of the game.
"Second quarter I thought was the difference," North Stars coach Michael Tomczak said. "We went awful cold and they took advantage of it, and we were fighting uphill the rest of the way."
Despite winning York rued missed opportunities. The Dukes were just 8 of 19 at the free-throw line, missing the front end of a 1-and-1 three times.
"That's one where we had a chance to put them away and just didn't do it," Collings said. "Knock down some layups, hit some free throws and instead of an 8-point game it's a 15-point game and we've got nothing to worry about."
The 10th-seeded North Stars (15-13) came within 6 points twice in the final minute, but a Madison Park steal followed by a pair of Dennis free throws and a Caylin Rufus block sealed the win for the Dukes.
"We became more relaxed in the fourth quarter and that's what sealed the deal at the end," Dennis said.
Junior Annie Tate led the North Stars with 16 points and 12 rebounds, 7 of them on the offensive end.
"We knew (Tate) was a good rebounder, but we didn't think we were going to get killed that bad by her," Collings said.