STREATOR - Pontiac High School wasn't the only team which had an obstacle to overcome Friday night.
The Indians were staring up at Bloomington's 6-foot-2 Kristin Petrinec during the Class AA Streator Girls Regional championship game and fell behind 20-9 midway through the second quarter. But with three minutes left in the third quarter, it was the Purple Raiders looking at a 33-30 deficit.
"We kept our composure really well throughout the whole game. We were here for business and never gave up," said Petrinec. "We knew what we had to do. We really wanted this."
Petrinec made sure BHS got its prize. The junior center nearly provided a triple double with 20 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocked shots as the fourth-seeded Raiders went on a 24-2 run en route to a 63-42 victory over No. 9-seed Pontiac.
BHS, which improved to 18-8, advanced to Monday's Normal West Sectional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The Raiders will face surprising Danville (10-18), the No. 14 seed which upset top-seeded Champaign Central in the Rantoul Regional semifinals. BHS beat Danville 45-42 in a Big 12 Conference game on Dec. 10.
Pontiac (18-8), with no starter taller than 5-9, put up a gutsy effort against BHS. The Indians were playing their second game in two days after Wednesday's semifinal game against Prairie Central was postponed a day. Pontiac's bus was involved in an accident on Illinois 23 which took the life of the driver who veered into the bus.
"I think finally the events that happened to us the last three days took a toll. You could tell," said Pontiac coach Gary Brunner. "We were tired, and we're in pretty good shape. With everything our kids have gone through to come and play as hard as they did, be in the game and have a chance to win, we were right there for three quarters.
"The roof caved in the fourth quarter, but their defense did that to us."
The Indians made only 7 of 32 shots in the second half and finished the game at 28.8 percent (15 of 52). BHS held a four-rebound advantage at halftime before grabbing a 23-13 margin in the second half.
Forward Beth Current added 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Raiders, while guard Kelly Carter scored 12 points. Senior guard Lovie McClom chipped in nine points and nine rebounds. BHS shot 40 percent from the field and sank 21 of 26 free throws.
"Our coach told us to push it. That's our motto," said McClom. "We tried to push it up and down the court."
BHS coach Sondra Vogel said she wasn't worried in the third quarter. Her nervousness began earlier when Pontiac outscored BHS 15-2 to take a 24-22 halftime lead.
"I told the kids no matter what happens Pontiac is going to battle you bucket for bucket, whether they get up big or we get up big," said Vogel. "We had to stay in it mentally and stay focused on defense. We didn't have some shots go down early that we normally hit. We just had to wait our turn."
Guard Erin Halloran scored nine of her 16 points in the last three minutes of the first half - including a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left - to key Pontiac's rally. Amy Kennedy sank two free throws and followed that with a 15-foot jumper on the wing to give Pontiac its biggest lead of the game at 33-30.
Petrinec showed before the game she isn't just a low-post threat. She sank nine baskets in the 3-Point Showdown, advancing to the next stage along with Pontiac's Ashley Timmerman (11). Petrinec made a 15-footer to start BHS' decisive run and Current's three-point play gave BHS a lead it never relinquished.
The Raiders led 39-33 heading into the fourth quarter. They put the game away by holding Pontiac to one basket in the first five minutes of the last period.
Timmerman added 13 points for Pontiac, which committed 14 turnovers. Despite giving up six inches, Amanda Sartoris valiantly battled Petrinec in the post and grabbed eight rebounds.
"We had the game right where we wanted it," said Brunner. "We're the type of team that's so little we have to have some perimeter shots fall and they didn't."