Survive and advance.
It's a phrase you hear often during this time of year as boys basketball postseason play begins.
On Tuesday, two of the North Suburban Conference tri-champions, Stevenson and Libertyville, lived up to the phrase in their regional openers.
Wednesday night saw Warren follow suit -- emphatically. The Blue Devils thrived and prospered, leaving Highland Park in the rearview mirror.
Thanks to a late first-half run, the Blue Devils pulled away from the Giants en route to a 78-50 triumph in the Class 4A Hoffman Estates regional semifinal.
Ninth-seeded Warren will face top-seeded sectional host Lake Zurich (23-7) Friday evening for the third time this season. The Blue Devils won the two previous meetings in NSC play.
"We've had some great practices as of late where our guys have brought a high amount of energy," Warren coach Jon Jasnoch said. "All of those guys were really excited about starting regionals tonight and you saw them get off to a good start early."
That promising start for the Blue Devils (19-11) came courtesy of Branden Ellis. The 6-3 senior put 12 of Warren's 15 points on the board during the first eight minutes. After a pair of 3s followed by back-to-back lay-ups, Ellis engaged in a scoring duel with the Giants' Ziv Tal, who tallied all of eighth-seeded Highland Park's 12 first-period points.
Where the contest turned in the Blue Devils' favor is when Ellis found a scoring partner in Ian Schilling. The 6-1 senior's layup at the 5:28 mark completed a 9-2 run that gave Warren its first double-digit lead of the night at 24-14.
After back-to-back baskets from the Giants' Tyler Gussis and Lucas Fleisher brought them within 24-18, Warren began the game's decisive surge with an Adnan Sarancic hoop, followed by the first of Schilling's five treys that launched a 15-5 tear. Warren led 39-23 at the break.
"We started to make shots," said Schilling, who finished with 19 points. "We started splashing threes. We had a great feel for our shot selection in the face of the good defense that Highland Park had for us. It also shows that when you keep working the ball for a good shot, it can come to you much easier."
Only a Tal layup to start the second half got Highland Park (15-11) any closer than 14 the rest of the way. The 6-1 senior led the Giants in scoring with 23 points, and he also earned plaudits from Warren's leading scorer Ellis (25 points).
"He's great," Ellis said. "We had a chance to watch him on film, and from what we saw he has this endless, limitless ability to do so many things well. After the game we spoke and he wished us well and we both came away with a tremendous mutual respect for one another."
Those well-wishes from Tal will be needed for Warren as it gets set to face a Lake Zurich team it beat twice already this season, with a 51-44 win on the Bears' home floor just 18 days ago.
"There's a sense of familiarity between both teams," Jasnoch said. "Everybody knows everybody and has played with both each and one another. Both games were close and it will be a really exciting atmosphere against a really great competitor."