BREESE — With one of their top scorers out with the flu and a big lead that had shrunk to seven early in the second half Tuesday, the Mater Dei Knights had ample reason to panic.
Instead, they floored the gas pedal and drove away from the Wesclin Warriors in a 72-45 semifinal victory at the Class 2A Mater Dei Regional.
Mater Dei (19-9) scored 20 of the next 23 points and never looked back as they left the Warriors (12-17) in their wake.
Leading the way was 6-foot-5 junior Zach Haake, who knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 26 points.
"At first I was a little worried, but once we came out with that defense it was like we've got this," said Haake, who had 20 points by the end of the third quarter and got plenty of help from Ben Lampe (22 points) while senior center Nolan Gerling missed the game with an illness.
"Nolan's got the flu, he's sick (and) Butchie's (Brendan Timmermann) got the flu, so it was really a concern going in," said Mater Dei coach Ron Schadegg, whose team had beaten Wesclin 63-60 in overtime in the previous meeting after an earlier 81-61 victory.
"But we had other guys step up and get the job done. Haake and Lampe were tremendous and carried us, and the other guys came in and did exactly what they needed to do to make sure we advance."
Second-seeded Central (20-8) takes on No. 3 seed Carlyle (21-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the other semifinal. The winner meets Mater Dei for the regional championship at 7 p.m. Friday.
What was working for Haake on Tuesday?
"Pretty much everything," he said. "I was feeling it from the get-go. We came out with a lot of intensity and I thought the defense really sparked the offense."
Mater Dei's intensity helped force Wesclin into nine of its 17 turnovers in the first half.
Down 37-25 at halftime, the Warriors used a 10-2 run that carved Mater Dei's lead down to 37-30. But Mater Dei got a quick 3-pointer from Zach Deiters and two more from Haake and rolled after that.
"We've made a lot of progress in the last couple weeks and played a lot of good games, beaten some good teams," Wesclin coach Andrew Wilson said. "But we needed to turn it up a notch and we were like deer in the headlights. We got stuck watching the show."
In the second and third quarters, the Knights rarely missed. They hit 14 of 21 shots, including 8-of-13 from 3-point range. As if to prove that wasn't a fluke, Mater Dei hit seven straight shots to open the final quarter.
"As it started it looked like it was going to be a 3-point contest," Schadegg said. "We were able to get some things inside and then balance it out a little bit."
Even though his team was scoring points in bunches during the third-quarter run, Schadegg said the majority of that scoring came from the defense.
"We knew we were up, so we tried to apply some pressure in the full court to keep them on their heels," he said. "That was really the turning point in regards to opening things up. It forced them to take a little quicker shots than they'd like and they didn't get to get their feet set to nail their threes."
Wesclin got 11 points from Kyle Eversgerd and nine each from Alex Smith and Jarad Steenbergen. The Warriors were 16-of-35 from the floor.
"They hit some shots and we had one of our worst shooting games of the season," Wilson said. "That (Wesclin) senior class, that doesn't do them credit because they can really fill it up too. They couldn't hit their shots tonight."
Haake got hot in the first quarter for Mater Dei and Lampe had the hot hand in the second as they combined for 23 points in the first half.
Wesclin hit some 3-pointers to hang close early, but the Knights began taking aim from long range and knocking down shots.
Mater Dei sank five of its seven 3-pointers in the second quarter and hit eight of 11 shots overall to quickly grab command of the game.