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Joliet Central's Jailen Jones (35) puts a shot up between T.F. North's Christian Johnson (14) and Marquis Todd (22) during their regional basketball game in Lockport Tuesday, February 26, 2013. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media

When you’re in the postseason, it doesn’t have to be pretty.

The idea is to advance any way you can.

T.F. North made 13 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter while Joliet Central settled for 5 of 12 as the No. Meteors held off the Steelmen 48-38 Tuesday night in the second semifinal of the Class 4A Lockport Regional.

North (20-7) will meet Joliet West in the regional final Friday night.

Not only did Central (13-15) come up short at the free-throw line, the Steelmen had difficulty scoring from the floor against the much taller Meteors. They made 9 of 35 shots in all, 3 of 18 in the second half. They frequently maneuvered to the basket but ran into 6-8 Marquis Todd and 6-6 Nicholas Wood.

“In the first half, if we got anywhere within eight feet of the basket, one of those two would block our shot,” Central coach Jeff Corcoran said. “In the second half we did a better job picking our spots, but we didn’t finish often enough.”

Yet, the Steelmen were within one possession, trailing 41-38 with 1:43 left before North clinched it with foul shooting.

“They put up a good fight,” Meteors coach Tim Bankston said. “They were almost playing at home. We played well at the end. We made our free throws. That’s what playoff basketball is all about.”

Bankston said early foul issues took North out of what it wanted to do, “but our guards stepped up. We’re used to this type of a game. Still, the playoffs are different. You can’t coach the pressure these kids have in the playoffs.”

Todd finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds. Wood had eight points and 12 rebounds. Senior guard D.J. Deere scored 14 points for the Meteors, who outrebounded the Steelmen 36-16, including 11-1 in the first quarter.

Central’s 1-2 punch of senior Jalen Heath and junior Jonah Coble had an off night offensively. Heath scored 10 points and was 4 of 13 from the line. Coble managed 12 points and was 0-for-3 from the line in the fourth quarter.

“The kids played hard,” Corcoran said. “We haven’t been in many situations where the game was that close late, and we might have rushed things a little even though we talked a lot about how you can’t get everything back in one possession.”

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