Third time isn't the charm for Crystal Lake South
Crystal Lake South was hoping a third time would be a charm.
It proved to be fatal.
Trailing host Crystal Lake Central by 14 in the third quarter, the Gators' valiant comeback fell short.
The seventh-seeded Tigers defeated the second-ranked Gators for a third time, 52-44 in semifinal action of the 4A Crystal Lake Central regional Wednesday night.
"Our kids fought and clawed for four quarters," said South coach Matt LePage. "We made a furious comeback in the fourth quarter and gave ourselves a chance to win. That is all you can ask. We had a tough night shooting the ball and missed some easy looks. We had a tough first round matchup and Central is tough at home."
Central (21-11) will play Harlem, 70-56 winner over Hononegah, for the regional title Friday at 7 p.m.
The Gators, co-champion of the Fox Valley Conference with Crystal Lake Central, ended the season at 23-8.
The Tigers seemed in good shape for the win after a 3-pointer by Deonta Dungey with 35 seconds left in the third quarter gave the hosts a 40-26 advantage.
The gutsy Gators refused to quit.
South, 4-of-21 from 3-point range for 19 percent, climbed within 46-44 of the Tigers with 55 seconds left on a 15-footer by Tyler Miller.
Those would be the last points Crystal Lake South would score.
Four free throws by Lucas Seegers and 2 by Christian Lerum sealed the win for Central, who scored the final 6 points in the game.
"We had three really tough games with South this year," said Central coach Rich Czeslawski. "It is dumb luck we found a way to beat them three times. They are an outstanding team and they wouldn't quit. I like that we were playing with the lead most of the game and South was chasing. I like our poise at the end. Our seniors stayed together at the end and got the tough win."
Matt Reall, in his last game as a Gator, scored 15 points with 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocked shots while Miller scored 13 with 3 treys.
"I am very proud of our senior class," said LePage. "They won a lot of games and always gave great effort. They will be hard to replace."
Connecting on 6-of-12 from 3-point range for 50 percent, the Tigers were paced by Seegers with 13. Lerum, with 2 treys scored 10 while Dungey and Will Welder, who also drained 2 from beyond the arc, tallied 8 apiece.
Bucknell recruit Alex Timmerman was held to 9 points.
"When teams try to shut down Alex other guys have to step up and they did tonight," said Czeslawski. "Will, Deonta, Lucas and Christian all hit big shots. "