CARY – The Prairie Ridge Wolves entered the season with one returning starter and a 15-game losing streak against Cary-Grove.
Times have changed.
"I've been dreaming of this forever," said Wolves senior guard Sarah Le Beau, the only returning starter, who wore freshly cut twine dangling from her neck.
Prairie Ridge clinched the Class 4A Cary-Grove Regional championship Friday with a 46-42 win against the Trojans, which marked the Wolves' third win in three games against C-G this season. Prairie Ridge (21-8) advanced to play Rockford Boylan at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Crystal Lake South for the chance to advance to the sectional championship game.
The Wolves led wire to wire against C-G, jumping to a 10-0 lead to open the game and surviving a second-quarter run that pulled the score within two. The Trojans (18-12) scored the final six points of the game but ran out of time in their comeback attempt.
When the buzzer sounded, the party started for Prairie Ridge.
Teammates mobbed Wolves center Maddie Drain, who led the team with 19 points. Drain scored nine baskets in the low post thanks to a steady parade of entry passes from teammates such as Le Beau, Kelly Klendworth, Aly Clark and Kirsten Voel-Pel.
Clark added 13 points for Prairie Ridge, while Le Beau finished with eight.
"It's such a great feeling," said Drain, one of four seniors on the team. "My heart is still racing. It's like I want to play another quarter, but I'm glad we're not."
Instead, Drain and her teammates posed for pictures with their new hardware, a heavy wooden plaque with "Regional Champions" printed in large, black letters.
Wolves coach Rob Baker said his players deserved all of the credit for their success.
"I knew we had a group that was going to be good," Baker said. "The thing with this group is their attitude. They just want to have fun.
"We talked before the game. We said when the game was over, we weren't going to be crying. We were going to have fun tonight, and if we lost, we were going to lose but we weren't going to be upset. We were going to have fun and we were going to give it everything we had."
Instead, it was the Trojans who quietly left the court while Prairie Ridge lingered to celebrate with friends and family members. In the moments after the loss, C-G was led in scoring by Sarah Kendeigh (11 points), Katie Barker (nine) and Candace Cunningham (seven).
"It seemed like every time we got it a little close, [Prairie Ridge] went on another run," C-G coach Rod Saffert said. "That was kind of the story of the whole night."
Kendeigh wiped away tears as she reflected on an 18-win season for the Trojans.
"Every single girl on the team is extremely hard working," Kendeigh said. "They're all super dedicated girls."
Now, it's Prairie Ridge's turn to try to make a deep playoff run.
More than 20 minutes after the game, Drain had yet to take a seat to catch her breath.
Rest would come. Eventually.
"I don't plan on sitting down anytime soon," Drain said with a smile.