Cary-Grove, Prairie Ridge advance to regional final
Prairie Ridge didn't get the ending it was looking for last week in a 36-19 loss to Cary-Grove in the teams' Fox Valley Conference finale.
The Wolves, who at one point this season rattled off 15 consecutive wins, didn't have to wait long to get another shot at the Trojans.
Prairie Ridge beat Lakes, 49-29, and Cary-Grove defeated Grayslake Central, 31-23, in Tuesday's Class 3A Grayslake Central Regional semifinals to set up an all-FVC regional title game against the District 155 rivals at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Wolves (26-5) and Trojans (19-10) split the regular-season series in a pair of low-scoring games. Prairie Ridge won the first game, 37-29, and was four games ahead of C-G in the conference standings. But, at this point, records and scores don't matter much.
"I want to play them again," said Karsen Karlblom, who had a game-high 27 points and three 3s against Lakes. "We didn't play our best [last week]. We had high expectations but we just couldn't reach them. It would be nice to get a regional championship against a rival. We're ready."
Cary-Grove coach Tony Moretti expects another tight contest against the Wolves.
"This team has taken on challenges all year, whether it's injured players or missing our top two scorers for a chunk of the season," Moretti said. "They just keep responding. And I couldn't be prouder. I love this team. I respect the heck out of [Prairie Ridge]. We had a battle on Friday night and I know that Thursday is going to be a battle, too.
"We're looking forward to it."
Cary-Grove outlasted Grayslake Central (13-17) in their own defensive game Tuesday, with the Trojans coming up big when it mattered most. Holding a 28-14 lead after three quarters, the Trojans scored only three points in the last eight minutes but came up with steals on the Rams' last four possessions to deny any comeback.
Maddie Scharrenberg led C-G with nine points. Emily Lukowski (seven steals) and Sam Skerl each tossed in seven points. Annika Nordin posted six points and seven boards.
"It was so intense," said Lukowski, who had four steals in the last quarter. "We came out knowing they were going to be big and strong, and we had to play our best defense, because that's what we know we can do. I think that we executed really well."
Piper Gallaher led the Rams with eight points. Monica Schleg added seven and Madison Hoffmann had five.
The Rams couldn't find an answer to the Trojans defense when it needed it most.
"We figured it would be a defensive battle," Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn said. "We've got two teams that pride themselves on playing good defense. Nobody backed down, just kind of back and forth. They challenged a lot of shots inside and we missed a few too many. We made a good comeback but we couldn't just get that one shot to really turn momentum our way."
In the first semifinal Tuesday, Prairie Ridge got off to a slow start and trailed, 8-5, with 2:05 left in the first quarter. A field goal by Kelly Gende and a 3 by Karlblom pushed the Wolves ahead, 10-8, going into the second.
Prairie Ridge held Lakes (11-19) to one point in the second quarter on 0-of-9-shooting and took a 22-9 lead into the break. Karlblom, meanwhile, got hot with eight of her game-high 27 points in the second.
Point guard Elani Nanos scored eight points for Prairie Ridge, and Gende added six points and 12 rebounds. Brooke Benjamin tossed in four points.
Lakes was led by Amanda Dietz with 14 points, including eight in the third quarter. Inclarity Turney had seven points and Sarah Lucier and Kendall Phelan each had three.
Prairie Ridge coach Tim Taege said the Wolves are excited for another matchup with C-G.
Prairie Ridge last won a regional championship in 2014 while C-G's last postseason title was four years ago.
"We haven't had a postseason win since I got here," he said. "We've talked about it all year. Whether you're a No. 3 seed or a [No.] 16 seed, it doesn't really matter. You get a new life in the postseason. Play whatever role that you are assigned to, go out and enjoy it. We're excited for the opportunity to be in this position."