Prairie Ridge wins nail-biter over Cary-Grove for regional title
The seconds could not tick off fast enough for Prairie Ridge.
The Wolves, who had played such efficient offense and stifling defense in the first half, were getting that served right back at them by Cary-Grove in the fourth quarter.
Things got a little tighter with every missed layup and every turnover. And C-G's Emily Lukowski was doing her best to see that her team's season did not end, hitting 5 of 6 field goals in one stretch.
Lukowski just wanted one more shot, but never got it.
Prairie Ridge's Karsen Karlblom stepped in to tip the ball out of Annika Nordin's hands on the Trojans' final play, forcing the ball to Avery Nielsen, whose 3-point attempt at the buzzer missed.
The Wolves ran to midcourt to celebrate a 32-30 victory in the Class 3A Grayslake Central regional championship, their first title since 2014.
Prairie Ridge (27-5) faces Deerfield at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the second Grayslake Central Sectional semifinal. C-G finished its season at 19-11.
Prairie Ridge built its lead to 30-14 in the third quarter when the Trojans caught fire and ripped into the lead with an 11-0 run.
"They're a solid, solid team and it's Cary-Grove and PR, that's what you get," Wolves coach Tim Taege said. "You don't run away with one like that, especially in a regional championship. We knew it was going to be a grind and ultimately time ran out on them.
"We couldn't get the bunny to go and some timely turnovers for them fired that run. But we responded and ultimately got it done at the end."
Lukowski hit a 3 with 2:30 remaining to cut the lead to 32-30. Prairie Ridge missed three inside shots and C-G got the ball with 15 seconds remaining and a chance to tie or win.
Lukowski's deep 3 was short and the Wolves got the ball out of bounds. But Lukowski forced a turnover on the inbounds pass and C-G got one final shot with 3.8 remaining.
Lukowski inbounded the ball and was supposed to get a pass back to the right corner for a 3. But Karlblom foiled that plan.
"I knew the ball was going to (Lukowski)," said Karlblom, who led all players with 21 points. "We played really aggressive defense.
"I was a little nervous. Emily got a 3 off and they got the ball back out of bounds from us. We should have held the ball, but it went out of bounds. They got another shot off, but we tipped it and they got a bad shot. It was our defense."
Lukowski finished with 20 points and four 3s. Nordin scored 10 for the rest of C-G's points.
"We came out slow (in the first half) and we were in the locker room (at halftime) and didn't want this to be the way our season ended," Lukowski said. "We came out and kept battling. I'm so proud of us because we kept battling and came close.
"We were playing our defense the way we know how to play (in the second half). We came out and we wanted it."
The Trojans' 2-3 zone forced 15 turnovers by Prairie Ridge in the second half. Prairie Ridge came out strong in the first half after a 32-19 loss to C-G on Friday.
"We knew the energy after we beat them last week," Trojans coach Tony Moretti said. "We didn't come out with it initially and kind of got behind the 8-ball. To chase a team 15 points up, whatever it was, it's hard.
"That's Cary-Grove girls basketball, we don't ever quit. We tried to draw up a play, but you have to execute a play you may not have seen before, but it's hard to execute. They're good. We just didn't execute it, it happens."
The Wolves' current players were in grade school the last time they won a regional.
"We've talked about it since I got here," Taege said. "No matter if you're big fish or little fish, postseason gives you opportunity for new live. It's fun to be in a favorite position (for the regional) this year, adds some pressure. This is what you play for, it's fun."
Karlblom hit her first seven shots and had 16 points at halftime.
"This is the best ever," she said. "I've never been more proud of our team. We worked so well as a team and this game is just the best. I don't even know what to say, I'm just speechless."