Glenbard South appeared to have Friday night's nonconference contest against St. Francis wrapped up as it held a commanding 15-point lead early in the fourth quarter.
However, coach Wade Hardtke and the Raiders had to sweat it out as the Spartans - who managed only nine points combined in the second and third quarters - stormed back and pulled to within 8 with 1:40 remaining.
Even though the Raiders didn't shoot particularly well from the free-throw line during the fourth quarter, they converted enough free throws to hold off St. Francis 51-44 in Glen Ellyn.
Mike Rovansek, Trace Wanless and Dylan Rheault each nailed free throws down the stretch to preserve the win. Rovansek led three Glenbard South players in double figures with 15 points - 9 of which were free throws - while Rheault added 13 and Joe Harks 10.
"Right now we're just trying to get a streak going, trying to finish out games," Hardtke said. "I thought we played very strong for three quarters, and in the fourth quarter we went back to playing not to lose instead of playing to win again. They dialed it up another notch, and when you give a team that plays as intensely as they do, you give them a little spark and they feed off of it."
The fourth quarter was becoming eerily similar to what Glenbard South (9-10) experienced last week in a Western Sun Conference loss to Geneva. The Raiders held a 13-point lead going into the final quarter of that game, but the Vikings outscored them 24-4 to win.
"That's what we talked about down the stretch here," Hardtke said. "We had a 13-point lead last week and got outscored, so that's been kind of laying on us all week. We just wanted to make sure that didn't happen again tonight."
The Spartans (7-12) actually held an 11-10 advantage at the end of the first quarter but couldn't buy a bucket during the next 16 minutes. St. Francis shot a combined 2 of 13 during the second and third quarters and simply dug itself too much of a hole.
"We had 10 turnovers in the first half, we were 5 of 10 from the free-throw line - two of those attempts were 1-and-1s," said St. Francis coach Sean Healy. "When you turn the ball over and can't knock down free throws, you're just taking possessions away from the opportunity to score. And we're not putting the ball in the hole. And when you get free throws, you've got to knock them down."
Joe Pfeiffer scored 10 of his team-high 14 points in the fourth quarter to lead St. Francis' rally, but the Raiders held Pfeiffer and Ryan Coyle in check throughout most of the game. Rheault, in particular, disrupted Pfeiffer and just about any other Spartan who attempted to go inside.
"We had our game plan this whole week to stop Pfeiffer," said Harks, who hit a lean-in jumper just before the buzzer to give the Raiders a 22-15 halftime lead. "That's why we had Dylan, the big kid, on him the whole game. That was our game plan - to stop Pfeiffer because we know he can do a lot."
Three Spartans fouled out, including Coyle, who averages 12.4 points per game but was limited to 4.
"We're struggling offensively to knock down any type of perimeter shot," Healy said. "With Rheault being inside, he's a presence that gives us a hard time. We're in an offensive funk, there's no question about it. When the game was kind of out of hand, we started to show up, and it's way too late."
Both squads resume action next Friday night. The Raiders will travel to Batavia and try to avenge a 64-46 loss to the Bulldogs earlier this season, while the Spartans resume Suburban Christian Blue play at Marian Central Catholic.