Wauconda gets past Prairie Ridge
Wauconda's Nick Brinias was unstoppable in the first quarter against Prairie Ridge.
The Bulldogs' senior guard sank his first six shots, including 3 3-pointers, rarely touching iron, scoring 15 points and pumping up his team and the visiting crowd at Friday's Class 3A Prairie Ridge boys basketball regional final.
Wauconda needed every bit of scoring from Brinias, as the host Wolves came storming back in the second half. Trailing by 19 points at half, Prairie Ridge got hot and cut the Bulldogs' lead to single digits by the end of the third quarter.
But time eventually ran out on the Wolves as Wauconda held off Prairie Ridge, 53-49, to secure its second consecutive regional title.
Top-seeded Wauconda advances to meet second-seeded St. Francis, which defeated Marmion Academy, 46-40, in the Marmion regional on Friday, in the Crystal Lake South sectional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Wauconda improved its program-best record to 25-3 with the victory. But the Bulldogs are going for a lot more.
"I think it's endless. I think we can go as far as we want to go," Brinias said. "We want to go to state. I think we can do it. We have so much firepower and so many good players. The only team that can beat us is us."
The Wolves (16-15) held Brinias (game-high 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting, 4 3-pointers) to only 7 points over the final three quarters. Prairie Ridge, meanwhile, battled back by outscoring the Bulldogs, 20-9, in the third.
James Muse, who tallied a team-high 16 points, adding 8t rebounds, 5 steals and 3 blocks, scored 7 points in the third quarter, while Mason Loucks tossed in 6 of his 11 with a pair of 3s for Prairie Ridge.
The Wolves got hot in the second half, firing at 46.4%, while Wauconda, which shot 60% in the first half, was 30% over the last two quarters. Jackson Otto (12 points) nailed 3 3s in the fourth as the Wolves tried to come all the way back in search of their first regional title since 2016.
The Wolves worked to slow down the pace against a Bulldogs team averaging more than 74 points a game. Prairie Ridge was more active on the boards and quicker in transition.
"Wauconda is a great basketball team and they're great offensively," PR coach Ryan Smith said. "In the first quarter I thought we did some things that were OK, but [Wauconda] didn't miss a lot of shots. I think we settled down after the first quarter. We did a better job of limiting the turnovers. We made adjustments with where to screen the zone, and kids were aggressive. I thought they had a little bit more confidence, they battled."
Justin Drobnik added 13 points, including 7 in the fourth, and Garrison Carter had 5 points and 10 rebounds. No other Bulldogs player scored more than 4 points, but eight total players had points in the victory.
Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager felt Brinias' hot start was key.
"He's got those games in him," Luetschwager said. "He did it the other day with a 23-point game [in the regional semifinals]. The fact that he came out with that in the first quarter, that was monster for us. We needed that lead with the way that PR plays. We needed all of it."