JOLIET | If T.F. North shoots free throws on Tuesday the way it did on Monday, it will not be returning to Joliet Central on Friday.
The Meteors pulled away from host Joliet Central in the second half of their Class 4A regional quarterfinal game, scoring a 51-37 victory after trailing by three points at halftime.
But shooting 13-of-32 from the line won't work against Bloom Township, the top seed in the sectional, and Tuesday's opponent.
"We had an awful night," said guard Greg McClain, who led the Meteors with 16 points, and whose 5-of-8 reading from the line was the best effort for T.F. North.
"We have to make 50 free throws every night before everyone leaves the gym," Meteors coach Tim Bankston said, "but it's lonely at the line in a game."
Until the Meteors (11-16) surged in the third quarter, it appeared the Steelmen would enjoy another home game against Bloom.
Then, McClain's 3-pointer with 3:48 left in the third gave T.F. North a 27-25 lead. Joliet's Jalen Heath's 3 put Joliet back in front with 59 seconds left in the quarter, but Torin Washington's hook shot seconds later put the Meteors ahead to stay.
"I thought our defense picked up in the second half," said Bankston, still saddled by a flu bug. "But our young kids were a little gun shy. We have to go to the veterans."
As in McClain, the junior, and seniors Washington and Elem McKinley, who was 3-of-4 from the line down the stretch. Limiting turnovers to only five in the second half also helped.
"We've got to take more care of the basketball," McClain said. "Coach really got on us at halftime. I think we were following their system in the first half."
In the second half, the Meteors played to their own drumbeat, and live to play again.
Washington scored 11 points, Marquis Todd adding 9, for the Meteors. Joliet Central (7-19) was led by Curtis Parker's 16 points, Heath adding 11.
Minooka plays Sandburg in Tuesday's second semifinal.