WARREN - During a timeout with 1:24 remaining in the game, John F. Kennedy coach Shawn Pompelia reminded his plays of the journey the team had taken so far.
Having erased a six-point Badger lead over a two-and-a-half minute span, Pompelia wanted to impress upon his team what crunch time meant in its first tournament game.
"I said to them, 'All the preparation we put in this summer, all the hard work we did in league, in West Virginia at camp ... this is the moment,' " Pompelia said. " 'Either we're going to take advantage of it, or we're going home tonight. This is the last two minutes of your life for some of you seniors.' "
His players took his speech to heart, beating the Braves, 52-46, in a Division IV sectional semifinal Wednesday night. The Eagles outscored the Braves 9-4 in the final 2 minutes of action.
"A win's a win," senior Dominic Naples said. "I'm proud of my teammates because we came back from a tough situation."
For much of the game, however, it looked like Kennedy (5-18) was in trouble.
The Braves (9-14) led a majority of the time, although the Eagles managed to hold slim margins at the end of the first and second quarters. Badger seemed to be in control in the first half.
Badger used a combination of a 3-2 and 2-3 zones to slow down the game, which messed with Kennedy's offensive rhythm.
"Badger did a great job of slowing everything down," Pompelia said. "It was very slow, methodical. They had a great game plan. Credit Badger because you could tell they put in a lot of time and effort into beating us. Their scouting report was dead on."
For all the game planning Badger did, execution down the stretch hurt the Braves.
When the Eagles took a 47-46 lead with 48 seconds remaining, Badger had three straight possessions that ended in turnovers, which allowed Kennedy to pull away.
That, along with Kennedy's 12 offensive rebounds, sunk Badger in the end.
"We thought we had a lot of opportunities to put it away," Badger coach Chris Mott said. "We didn't rebound well and finish off those possessions. That was the biggest difference - them on the offensive glass."
Kennedy will play McDonald in a sectional final Saturday at Warren G. Harding High School.