Banged up and perhaps not at its best, Aurora Central Catholic found a way Tuesday night in Elmhurst.
But not without an anxious finish.
Jackie Cardona's putback basket with 32 seconds left broke a tie, and the Chargers weathered four Immaculate Conception missed shots in the final 10 seconds for a 42-40 Suburban Christian Conference crossover win.
"I told the girls, 'Good teams find a way to win when they're not running on all cylinders,'" Chargers coach Mark Fitzgerald said, "and we certainly were not. We lacked energy at times but came through. That's the mark of a good team."
Aurora Central (15-5) was playing without injured Katilyn Rosa, and Ashley Wilk was just cleared Tuesday with a sprained ankle Fitzgerald said "is the size of a balloon." On top of that, the Chargers are in finals week.
Aurora Central's biggest lead was 32-25 early in the third quarter, but IC rallied to tie it 40-40 on Megan Sutton's free throw with 48.2 seconds left.
"At the end we were struggling, we kind of lost some momentum," Cardona said, "but we were able to pull through. We're up late with finals studying and two of our main rebounders are out. It's a little harder for us right now."
At the other end Lisa Rodriguez missed a baseline jumper, but Cardona slid into an open crease to grab the miss and dropped in a short follow shot.
Inside or on the perimeter, Cardona often seems to be in the right place at the right time for the Chargers. Two weeks ago she scored her 1,000th varsity point, and Tuesday she scored 8 of her 16 points in the fourth quarter.
"She's smooth. She finds a way," Fitzgerald said. "She'll be the school's leading scorer by the time she's done. You don't get that way unless you can find spots. She has a knack for that."
Immaculate Conception (13-5) had its five-game win streak snapped and had to feel the result easily could have gone the other way.
All four of the Knights misses in the last 10 seconds were from within 15 feet, a fitting end to a 14 of 52 night from the field. IC also followed an all-to-familiar pattern at the free-throw line, making just 11 of 25.
"The girls just need to capitalize," IC coach Aubree Lawrence said. "It's something we've talked about a lot this year, is finishing."
The Knights have still made strides over the course of the season, 9-1 over its last 10 games coming into Tuesday. Sweet-shooting Kellyanne Remy scored 14 points to go with 5 rebounds, Sutton added 11 points, Jennifer Clementi 8 rebounds and Brittney Reaber 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
Close games are nothing new for the Knights in conference; five of their six Suburban Christian Gold games have been decided by single digits.
"We're very fortunate to play in a conference that is so competitive," Lawrence said. "Games like this help you in the long run and prepare you."
Rodriguez had 9 points and Kendall Adams 10 rebounds for Aurora Central.