DeKalb’s tenacious defense had the Falcons trailing the Barbs 25-24 at halftime. In the second half, the Falcons found their inside game to change the momentum.
Wheaton North, seeded fifth in the Bartlett Sectional, advances to Thursday’s championship game against DuKane Conference rival St. Charles East. The fourth-seeded Saints beat West Chicago 47-34 in Monday’s first game.
The two schools split their two conference games this season.
DeKalb finished the season with a 15-17 record.
The Barbs crashed the boards to stay with the Falcons in the first 16 minutes. DeKalb outrebounded Wheaton North 18-9 in the first half.
Although DeKalb junior Kezaria Mitchell is only 5-foot-6, she snared 13 rebounds, 10 in the first half. Mitchell took two of her rebounds to the other end of the court for layups. The junior finished the night with 10 points.
“She’s been our heartbeat all season. She works so hard,” DeKalb coach Brad Bjelk said. “She goes all out and leaves everything on the floor.”
DeKalb led 14-9 after the first quarter.
A 3-point attempt by Adeline Sutton in the second quarter was a prime example of how tough it was for Wheaton North (19-12) to score. Her shot from the right corner rolled around the rim twice, stayed on the back of the rim for a few seconds and then rolled off into the hands of a DeKalb defender.
The Falcons’ comeback started in the last half of the second quarter. At the 4:53 mark of the frame, DeKalb had its biggest lead, 21-13. Wheaton North went on a 12-4 run, ending with a Sara Abdul layup just before the first-half buzzer.
“They hit us in the mouth at the beginning. They came out and had the energy and the physicality. They wanted to protect their home court,” said Wheaton North coach Tyler Bantz, former head coach of the Barbs. “We took awhile to get adjusted to the physical play.”
A Zoe Bohmer bucket a minute in the third quarter put Wheaton North in front for the first time at 26-25, and the Falcons stayed on top for the rest of the game.
Getting the ball inside to Bohmer (12 points) paid off in the second half. In addition to making baskets, the senior drew fouls and connected on six of nine free throws.
“In the beginning of the second half, we looked to pound the ball inside because they were in foul trouble,” Bantz said. “That cleared some things out and we started hitting some shots.”
DeKalb pulled within two at the end of the third quarter at 37-35 on back-to-back Mitchell baskets.
Abdul finding her shooting touch in the last 16 minutes also turned things around for Wheaton North. The junior scored 21 of her game-high 29 points in the second half. Her 18-point fourth quarter put the game away for the Falcons.
“We were playing hard – a great first half. They closed out the second quarter really well,” Bjelk said. “Third quarter, they got some inside touches and put us in some tough situations personnel-wise with fouls.”
Mira Spillane scored 11 points for Wheaton North. Alicia Johnson tallied 10 for DeKalb.