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Streamwood's Jessica Cerda heads up the court against Cary-Grove on Monday in the semifinals of the Class 4A Rockford East Sectional. | Erik Anderson~For Sun-Times Media

Facing an end to their high school careers Monday night, Streamwood’s Jessica Cerda and Deja Moore refused to let a few missed opportunities earlier in the game stand in the way of a shot at a sectional championship.

Cerda put on an electrifying show at both ends of the court in the second half to lead a rally, and Moore made two free throws with 13.5 seconds left for a three-point lead as the Sabres earned a 45-44 victory over Cary-Grove for a berth in Thursday’s championship game of the Rockford East Class 4A Sectional. The win put the Sabres in Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. title game against Huntley or  Harlem.

“I wasn’t ready for the season to end, my team wasn’t ready for this to end,” said Cerda, who scored 14 of her game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter to trigger a rally from a 36-31 deficit in the fourth quarter. “I didn’t perform well in the first half at all. I picked it up a little in the third quarter but this being potentially my last high school game, it sparked something and I just had to go for it.”

The Chicago State-bound guard scored all 10 Sabre points in a 10-2 run that started with 4:20 left in the game, the first three points coming from beyond the arc after she had missed 10 three-pointers earlier.

“She missed the first 10 and buried the next two,” coach George Rosner said. “We never told her to stop shooting. She took it to the basket very well. And she played great defense. Her hands are lightning and she showed them tonight.”

Cerda had made three steals to get the Sabres started in a third-quarter comeback from a 27-20 deficit. And her trey with 4:20 left in the game cut the Sabres deficit to 36-34. After Joslyn Nicholson’s turnaround shot fell, Cerda drew a foul and made two free throws. Following a Trojans miss, Cerda drove for the layup that tied the game with 3:08 left at 38.

After Cary-Grove star Olivia Jakubicek missed a driving shot, Cerda finished her run with another three-pointer at the top of the key for a 41-38 Sabres lead and they never trailed again.

“I’ve been playing with Cerda a long time and knew she had that in her,” said Moore, who scored 13 points.

Moore then had the game in her hands at the foul line. She had missed 2-of-3 in the first half from the line, but in the clutch made two to up the Streamwood lead to 43-38. Then, after Abby Glaysher made two layups to cut the deficit to a point, the Trojans failed to foul for almost 30 seconds before finally getting Moore. She nailed two clutch free throws with 13.5 seconds left.

“I wasn’t really doing that well at free throw shooting until this year,” Moore said. “We were shooting 10 free throws at practice on Saturday and I made all 10, so it came back and helped.”

Cary-Grove (23-7), the Fox Valley Valley champs, couldn’t get a shot at the game-tying three-point try and wound up with just a Glaysher putback with a second left before the buzzer sounded.

It wasn’t the only time late that Streamwood’s defense befuddled the Trojans.

At the urging of assistant coach Joe Ziegler, after center Hannah McGlone picked up four fouls, Rosner put Moore on Jakubicek, who led the Trojans with 15 points. Jakubicek had trouble driving with the quicker Moore in front of her and finished with two fourth-quarter points.

“We didn’t take care of the ball as well as we could have and they certainly turned up the heat,” Cary-Grove coach Rod Saffert said. “We had all kinds of shots that didn’t go in. The opportunities were there the whole game.”

When Streamwood fell behind 10-2 coming out of the gates, Rosner said he was having visions of two years ago in a regional final loss to the Trojans.

“At the beginning of the game we could have folded,” he said. “We talked about that after (the game). Two years ago when they ran at us they took the game away right in the first quarter — we just never recovered.

“We came back here. We came back and made it a game.”

And a victory.

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