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There were times when Mooseheart’s boys basketball team looked on the brink of blowing out Harvest Christian in Monday’s Rockford Christian Life Regional opener.
Those moments also disappeared with frustrating regularity as the No. 9-seeded Lions fought back time and again against the No. 8-seeded Ramblers, and even took the lead in the second half.
But clutch free throw shooting and timely defense were key to Mooseheart’s 46-41 victory, a win that advances the Ramblers to Wednesday’s semifinals, where they play top-seeded Rockford Christian Life at 6 p.m.
“We are going to play an exceptionally tough team,” Mooseheart coach Pete Daneels said of Rockford Christian Life. “I told the team that our toughest game here would probably be on Wednesday. We just have to go in and take the momentum from (Monday) and execute and do what we can do.”
Harvest Christian rallied in the third quarter and took a 30-29 lead with 2:52 left. Mooseheart rallied immediately when Michael Lowe was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws. The run continued and Mooseheart never trailed again.
“We played a really tough schedule,” Daneels said. “We played Lake Forest and Byron and Indian Creek and (Peru) St. Bede, which are all really tough teams this year. My predecessor (Ron Ahrens) made a tough schedule this year. But the reason we played this tough schedule was to get ready for regionals, and it paid off today.”
Lowe was key in the third quarter, scoring six free throws and 12 of his team-high 18 points. Working in tandem with Lowe was senior Josh Gordon, who scored five of his seven points in the second half.
“We shot well in the first half,” Daneels said. “The second half, I thought, was all heart. I felt we played defense well the entire game, but in the second half, it was our defense and not our offense that won the game.”
Mooseheart built a 25-21 halftime lead largely thanks to Quinn Hunt’s 11-point output, though he did not score in the second half.
Brett Cramer led Harvest Christian with 20 points, but the scoring drop-off was steep, to Peyton Kasper, who scored six points.