Offensively challenged for the second straight night, Cary-Grove claimed its third straight regional championship with a stellar effort on the defensive end of the floor.
Holding third-seeded Prairie Ridge without a point in the third quarter and only 9 field goals for the game, the top-seeded Trojans were able to outlast a pesky PR squad 34-25 in the championship game of the Class 4A Prairie Ridge girls basketball regional Thursday night in Crystal Lake.
Cary-Grove (20-8) advances to play South Elgin or Streamwood in a 7:30 p.m. McHenry sectional semifinal on Tuesday night. Hononegah meets DeKalb in the Monday night semi with the winners returning next Thursday for the right to advance to the Feb. 27 Elgin supersectional. South Elgin and Streamwood meet tonight for the South Elgin regional title.
"When our shots are not falling we have to win with defense," said Cary-Grove junior center Olivia Jakubicek. "Defense is our main priority and we played very good defense the last three nights. We were physical and didn't give them many good shots. We were more patient on offense in the second half and took the ball to the basket aggressively."
Holding a tenuous 15-11 lead at halftime, the Trojans seized control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring the Wolves 9-0.
Connecting on only 1 field goal in the quarter, Cary-Grove made 7 of 11 from the free-throw line. Alyssa Lee canned a 12-footer from the right side of the lane for Cary-Grove's only basket of the quarter. Paige Lincicum, Jakubicek and Abby Glaysher each made 2 free throws for the Trojans.
Prairie Ridge (14-15) misfired on all 8 shots from the field and was 0 of 5 from 3-point range. Cary-Grove, which forced 25 PR turnovers for the game, caused 8 in the third quarter.
With Cary-Grove leading 24-11 after three quarters, PR scored its first points of the second half on a pair of free throws by Alex Neckopulus with 6:55 left in the game to make the score 24-13.
The Trojans' biggest lead was 17, 32-15, after a layup by Glaysher with 3:45 left in the game. PR got 3s from Hayleigh Danek and Sarah LeBeau to get within 11 of the Trojans, 32-21, with 2:08 remaining but that's as close as the Wolves would get.
Lincicum paced the Trojans with 9 points while Jakubicek scored 8, all from the free throw line.
"We were more aggressive taking the ball to the basket in the second half," said Cary-Grove coach Rod Saffert. "We got to the basket and got fouled and got to the free throw line. Our defense has saved us in the two regional games."
LeBeau paced the Wolves with 6 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.