Byline: Mike McGraw Daily Herald Sports Writer
There was plenty of tension and electricity in Mundelein's gym on Friday night. But sometimes March Madness can bring out the very best in a player.
Doug Rippberger, Aaron Evans and Craig Lyerly scored a total of 74 points and combined to hit an amazing 26 of 33 shots in the contest.
Rippberger and Evans play for Mundelein. Lyerly is on Stevenson. With two all-star performances, the host Mustangs were able to pull away in the second half and win the regional title 87-74.
The victory capped off quite a comeback season for Mundelein (17-10). In the last two years, the Mustangs only won six games. Now they're headed for the Waukegan sectional semifinals for the first time since 1994 and will face No. 1 Zion-Benton on Tuesday.
"It feels great," said Mundelein point guard Eric Levernier. "All those mornings waking up early, we questioned, 'Is this worth it?' It all paid off. The fans have been great and we paid them back by going to Waukegan."
The Mustangs got off to a great start, leading 8-0 early behind 6 points and 2 steals by Rippberger. But 13th-seeded Stevenson (9-18) quickly caught up and forced its preferred frantic pace.
Mundelein had 10 turnovers in the first quarter, but gradually settled down and finished the game with a reasonable 22. The Patriots led by as many as 5 points in the second quarter, but trailed 39-38 at intermission.
For the Mustangs, the game was moving too fast. They were getting in foul trouble and don't have much depth to begin with. So coach Perry Wilhelm went to a zone defense in the second half and the ploy worked perfectly.
"I thought our zone in the second half was the thing that turned the tide," Wilhelm said. "It saved us some foul trouble and it slowed down the game. It stopped it from being an up-and-down game."
"We were dribbling too much and …