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River Grove, 02/19/13--Guerin Prep's Daniel Siman scores on a putback despite pressure from Douglass' Jaleel Butler. Guerin Prep hosted Douglass High School in a boys basketball 2A regional game Tuesday evening. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media

Host Guerin jump started its defense and battled back from an eight-point halftime deficit to down Douglass 68-63 at home in the opening game of the Class 2A Regional Tuesday night in River Grove.

It was the kind of game one might expect between the No. 4 Gators (10-14) and No. 5 Tigers (6-17) in a regional quarterfinal matchup. Guerin led early before the Tigers went on a 13-4 run to close out the first quarter and jump ahead 18-17. Douglass stayed in front until midway through the third period.

The Tigers were sizzling from three-point range, connecting on 14 shots in the first half, seven of those from three-point land. But the second half was another story, as the Gator defense held the Tigers to just six baskets – and only one from beyond the arc.

“Our second-half defense was the difference,” Guerin head coach Marcus Green said. “We gave up 40 [points] in the first half and I told the players that was way too many to allow in a half of basketball. In the second half, they came out and played ‘D,’ they boxed out, they rebounded and we got some good offensive possessions.

“They [Douglass] came out on fire, and if a team shoots like that all night long, I’ll salute them. But I figured we have to take our chances and press just a little bit more and contest their jump shots. They got a lot of long rebounds and second-chance points in the first half and we did a much better job of hitting the glass after halftime.”

Guerin junior Gavin Byrne (16 points) knotted the score at 44-44 in the third quarter when he swished his second trey of the game with 4 minutes, 40 seconds to go in the period. The Gators missed a few chances underneath but trailed just 53-51 going into the final eight minutes.

It was back and forth as the lead changed hands several times in the fourth quarter until junior Joe Binkowski (15 points, eight rebounds) and senior Kevin Kross (seven points, 15 rebounds) each hit 1-of-2 from the line to build the advantage to 64-62.

After Douglass senior William Heard (game-high 25 points) was good on 1-of-2 free throws to draw the Tigers within one, Guerin junior Anthony Marra (13 points, nine rebounds) made it 65-63 from the charity stripe before Adam Castro, who didn’t score a point, took a charge that gave the ball back to the Gators and senior Andrew Rangel (six points, all in the fourth quarter) calmly put in two from the charity stripe to secure the victory.

“Kross and Binkowski really cleaned the glass tonight,” Green said. “Kevin moves people out and goes up and gets the rebounds and Joe can jump out of the gym with anyone. They try to own the boards and they gave us a big inside presence today.”

Guerin’s swarming defense and muscle under the boards helped make the comeback possible as the Gators out-rebounded the Tigers 24-11 in the final two quarters, drained key shots from the field and sunk just enough free throws down the stretch to advance and play No. 1 seed Walther Lutheran at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

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