And it's more history for Wauconda
ROCKFORD -- Donovan Carter heeded the familiar advice he's received many times before.
With Tuesday's game tied with 30 seconds left, Wauconda needed its star to hit a shot that he's practiced on the driveway countless times.
Carter delivered, banging in the go-ahead 3-pointer. The shot continues a dream season for Wauconda. A week after the program won its first regional title, it continued in thrilling fashion, a 70-66 win over St. Francis in the Class 3A Rockford Boylan sectional semifinal.
"I've been told by my coaches and by my dad especially: He told me 'In big moments, you need to step up,' " Carter said. "I know that my team relies on me and all of Wauconda relies on me. So I put the ball in my hands. I knew I had to do something for us, and that's what I did."
As the clock struck zero and his team celebrated the achievement feet away, Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager couldn't help but crack a slight smile. His team is now headed to its first sectional final.
Before this season, the last time the Bulldogs won postseason titles came in 1963 and 1964, then known as district championships.
The Bulldogs (23-7) move on to face the winner of Wednesday's Boylan-Hampshire semifinal in Friday's sectional final in Rockford.
"We've been fighting just to even get a regional championship. To be able to win a game past a regional championship, it's just amazing," Luetschwager said. "We're enjoying every moment that we have here. The kids are fighting hard every moment in practice and in games.
"They truly feel that every minute, they have a chance to win a game," Luetschwager continued. "No matter what the score is -- up, down -- they just keep on fighting and they keep on plugging along. They just stick true to what we're trying to do. They are a great team right now playing together as one unit. As long as they stay together as one unit, we'll take it as far as we can go."
After Carter's shot, St. Francis was called for a double-dribble, losing possession. Wauconda junior Benjamin Chung split free throws to increase the margin to four. St. Francis sophomore Sebastian Miller followed with a layup with 3.6 seconds left, but Carter hit 2 free throws with 2.8 seconds left to clinch Wauconda's win.
"We work hard as a team. We all trust each other. When it came down to crunchtime, our defense (held)," said Garrison Carter, Donovan's brother. "We just came through today with that intensity."
Donovan Carter finished with 24 points and 5 rebounds, while Garrison Carter followed with 16 points and 9 rebounds for the Bulldogs. Griffin Daun had 10 points.
St. Francis senior forward Robert Nocek turned in 14 of his 18 points in the first half, also finishing with 8 rebounds. Bryce Walker had 9 points and 10 rebounds and Miller had 10 points and 2 rebounds to lead the Spartans (20-14).
"As far as the second half, I think we just came out slow," Nocek said. "(Wauconda) had a lot of momentum on their side. I think we were just a little rushed in the moment ... kind of rushing it."
"The senior group we had ... I thought we had a strong culture," Spartans coach Erin Dwyer said of his postgame locker room message. "I think they helped strengthen it. That's probably the biggest thing. Their leadership was tremendous in their own way. I feel like we've done a lot of great things. We have a bright future ahead of us if we're willing to continue (doing) the work. We've just got to keep paying attention to details."