Lakes coach Brian Phelan, who didn't want to see his season come to a close quickly, can breathe a sigh of relief.
The No. 2-seeded Eagles boys basketball team survived a close one and got past No. 3 Richmond-Burton 46-43 on Wednesday night in the Class 3A Johnsburg regional semifinal.
"I really don't want it to end yet," said Phelan, who will leave coaching once the season ends. "It's not really what we practiced, throwing Richmond-Burton the ball. I thought Richmond-Burton played hard and they got the loose balls that we couldn't get.
"It would've been nice to have a little more breathing room. Right now it's about surviving and playing on."
Lakes (14-17) will meet up with the host Skyhawks, the top seed, in a regional championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Eagles got intense defensive pressure all game long from the Rockets (17-10) and turned the ball over 25 times. Still, Lakes was able to keep a lead throughout the game.
"When you're playing against the press of (Richmond-Burton), you don't want to lose the lead," Phelan said. "It can demoralize you. Richmond got really close, and it's hard to fight through all that. We wanted to get the lead early and keep the press away from us. We did it, for the most part."
Lakes started the fourth quarter with the first 4 points on a layup from Marcel KirkmanBey (15 points, 9 rebounds) and a short jumper from John Androus (12 points, 10 rebounds) for a 37-28 lead with 6:42 left.
Richmond kept chipping away at Lakes and trailed 43-41 with a chance of tying the game. But the Eagles' Tyler Swindle made a clutch play with 1:18 left, tying up the Rockets' Kyle Wismer (19 points) on a rebound and putback.
"I thought it was a clean steal, but it was called a jump ball," Swindle said. "It would've been a tie at that point. I just covered him and saw the ball. I was able to go after it."
Lakes never let up the lead, Androus stepped up to the line, making 3 of 4 free throws in the final minute.
"Free throws in the playoffs are always critical," Androus said. "It's the loneliest place in the world on the free throw line. But we needed a score and that was the way to do it."
Down by 3, the Rockets sent up an errant 3-point attempt.
"We had a couple of missed layups and missed free throws," Richmond-Burton coach Brandon Creason said. "(Lakes) made their free throws. We just had some breakdowns at the end of the game."