POLO – Legendary Prophetstown coach Don Robinson told his team "regionals have to be won. They don't just give them to you."
Erie made the rival Prophets fight tooth and nail Friday night in the Class 1A Polo Regional championship before Prophetstown prevailed 36-31.
"They put up a really good fight. It was way too close," said the Prophets' Cassie Reiley, who scored 11 points. "But, that's four straight regionals for me and Riley [Walters]. Not many people can say that."
Walters scored 11 points and snagged nine rebounds.
The sixth-ranked Prophets (27-3) earn a rematch with top-ranked Aquin and Arizona State-bound Sophie Brunner in a River Ridge Sectional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Aquin downed Prophetstown 36-24 in a sectional final a year ago.
The Prophets had swept Erie (20-10) in Three Rivers Conference play, winning 53-30 on Nov. 27 at Erie and 47-37 Feb. 1 at Prophetstown.
Friday, it was close from start to finish, with the spread never more than five.
It's an emotional matchup for Robinson.
"Most of [the Cardinals] run track for me," he said. "It was a hard game for me to coach."
Erie looked like it might just spring the upset when Kayla Waggoner's 3-pointer from the right wing gave the Cardinals a 24-19 lead with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
"It was in our hands. That's why it's so upsetting to all of us," said Erie freshman Rachel Cobert, who scored nine points and pulled down seven rebounds. "I really thought we could have it."
After a 6-0 spurt gave Prophetstown its first lead since 9-8, the Cardinals took its last lead at 26-25 on two free throws by Desirae Lawson with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
Reiley got loose in the final seconds of the quarter and buried a 3-pointer from the right wing just before time expired to give the Prophets a 28-26 edge heading to the final frame.
Walters' spinning bucket with 5:38 left made it 30-26. Cobert drove for a hoop to cut it to 30-28 with 3:37 to play.
Neither team scored again until there was less than a minute left, as Reiley sank two free throws with 58 seconds remaining to make it 32-28.
Courtney Cobert kept Erie very much alive when she knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of key, making it 32-31 with 42 seconds left.
The Prophets put the game away with four more free throws, two apiece by Clare Kramer (8 points) and Walters.
"Everybody outside our locker room wasn't giving us much of a chance," Cardinals coach Brian Howell said. "But, we knew we could beat them. Our girls played with that confidence. They believed."
Star of the game: Riley Walters, Prophetstown, 11 points, 9 rebounds
Key performers: Cassie Reiley, Prophetstown, 11 points; Rachel Cobert, Erie, 9 points, 7 rebounds; Clare Kramer, Prophetstown, 8 points
Up next: Class 1A River Ridge Sectional semifinal, Prophetstown vs. Aquin, 7:30 p.m. Monday