For nearly 30 minutes Naperville Central's boys basketball team seemed in control.
Then it became a matter of just holding on.
The Redhawks advanced to the Class 4A Addison Trail regional title game with Wednesday's 54-51 victory over Glenbard West.
Seventh-seeded Naperville Central (20-9) built an 11-point lead with one minute, 40 seconds left and watched as the No. 10 Hilltoppers (15-12) slashed the deficit to 3 points in the last half minute.
Four missed free throws and a turnover with 11 seconds left allowed standout Glenbard West junior Evan Taylor one last look at the basket and a chance to send it to overtime. With Nick Baskin's hand in his face, Taylor's 3-point attempt at the buzzer went off the mark.
"It was nerve-wracking, but we did what we had to do," Baskin said. "We were missing some free throws, but it's a confidence thing and I believe in my teammates. I knew we were going to pull it out."
The Redhawks now seek their first regional title since 2009 when they face No. 2 Benet (24-4) in Friday's final in Addison.
As difficult as it was to close out Glenbard West, Naperville Central took the lead for good with a 10-0 run to close the first half. Glenbard West was held scoreless for the final 5:18 of the second quarter and trailed 22-13 at the break.
"We had stretches offensively where we struggled," said Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder. "I knew our kids weren't going to lay down, and I'm not surprised we made a run at them. That's just the way this team is."
Balance paved the way for Naperville Central. Tyler O'Brien scored 11 points, Cameron Dougherty and Dan Raab had 10 points, Baskin scored 9 points and Ben Wolf added 8 points despite sitting much of the action with foul trouble.
Taylor led all scorers with 21 points while Carter Lindstrom had 10 points off the bench.
"Late in the fourth quarter, if we make our free throws like we're capable of it's not as close," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer. "But it's a game of high school basketball."
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