NORMAL -- As a group that prides itself on consistently holding its opponent to under 40 points per game, Glenbard South seemed to have No. 1-ranked Peoria Richwoods right where it wanted the Knights on Friday at Illinois State's Redbird Arena.
With defense dominating and points at a premium, the Raiders found themselves toe-to-toe with an equally scrappy and stingy foe. It wasn't enough against Richwoods, which defeated the Raiders 38-34 in a Class 3A girls basketball semifinal.
It is the Raiders' first appearance at state.
"It was a defensive battle and that's what we were hoping for," said Glenbard South coach Morgan Kasperek. "We play great defense. That's no secret, and we went out and played great defense tonight and played with the pace we needed to play to hang in there."
Also keeping the Raiders in the contest was a 24-point, 12-rebound performance by 6-foot-2 junior Maggie Bair.
Bair netted 9 of her points in the fourth quarter when the Raiders faced their biggest deficit of the game, 29-23, in the opening minute of the period. They rallied for a 34-34 tie with just 1:01 left in the game.
"We were down in the fourth and this is something we've been working all year for," Bair said. "I wanted it really bad and our team wanted it really bad and I knew that the way we were going to do it was to penetrate their base and get on the inside. I knew that someone needed to do it and I thought I should step up."
It was a pair of sophomores who stepped up for Richwoods in the game's closing minute to send the Knights into Saturday's Class 3A title game against Nazareth.
Jaida McCloud and Nia Williams tucked their nerves away and combined to sink four straight free throws down the stretch to give Richwoods its margin of victory.
After drilling her two free throws to give Richwoods a 36-34 lead, Williams stepped in front of a Glenbard South pass to grab one of her 3 steals of the game with 12 seconds remaining.
McCloud put the contest away for the Knights with her two free throws with four seconds on the clock.
"For two sophomores to step up and go 4 for 4 at the line when we needed it the most was huge," said Richwoods coach Todd Hursey.
Hursey's been accustomed throughout the year to all-stater Camryn Taylor and leading scorer Kourtney Crane leading the Knights' charge.
Crane was limited to a team-high 11 points, 4 below average. Taylor scored 8, hampered by foul trouble throughout much of the game.
Richwoods led 12-10 at the first-quarter break. Then Glenbard South put the clamps down defensively and held the Knights to 5 points in the second period to grab an 18-17 halftime lead. It was only the second time this season that Richwoods (34-1) trailed at halftime.
"We're a very good basketball team and we played together and fought through the adversity and I'm very proud of these kids," said Hursey, who also saw the rarity of Richwoods being tied in the closing minute.
"We have not been in that situation and we talked about it amongst ourselves," he said. "We're going to be in close games here (in the finals). The ability to stay calm and rely on each other was the key."
The win was No. 1,000 in Richwoods history.
"We've got to get that 1-0-0-1 win so I can look up and say the first win of the next thousand was for a state championship," Hursey said.
Glenbard South (29-4) will face Breese Central at 11 a.m. Saturday in the third-place game.