NORMAL – Maggie Bair paused as she approached the postgame podium, reminding her teammates she tripped on it last year.
She made no missteps this time.
Bair, Glenbard South's 6-foot-2 junior, showcased her unique skill set as a sophomore when she won the state's Queen of the Hill 3-point shootout.
She showed a different aspect of her game Friday – and was just as impressive.
Bair scored 24 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and just about willed Glenbard South past second-ranked Peoria Richwoods in the Class 3A semifinal.
The Knights pulled out the 38-34 win, the game-winning points coming on two free throws with 37 seconds left. Peoria Richwoods advanced to play Nazareth in Saturday's Class 3A final. Glenbard South will play Breese Central at 11 a.m. for third.
Defeat meant much more to Bair's individual victory last year.
"I think it just made it more special that I came down with my team, it made it a lot more important," Bair said. "Last year I was able to come down here and watch all these great teams play here on this stage. It definitely helped my nerves."
Glenbard South (29-4), which had never even won a sectional until last week, indeed hardly showed stage fright in its Redbird debut.
The Raiders led 18-17 at halftime, the first time Richwoods (34-1) trailed at that point since December.
Richwoods has its own stellar post in 6-foot-1 Camryn Taylor, but Knights coach Todd Hursey admitted they hadn't seen a player quite like Bair this year. Her presence at the rim at both ends, where she rarely strayed from, stood out.
"She plays smart, too," Hursey said. "She has the ability to keep her body from making contact and meet you at the top of your shot. We adjusted our shots."
Glenbard South trailed 32-26 with 3:10 left, but came back to twice tie the game in the final two minutes. Finally, Nia Williams' two free throws with 37.4 seconds left gave Richwoods the lead for good. She then tipped and stole a Glenbard South pass on the other end.
"Richwoods is a fantastic basketball team. We were within four points of the state championship game," Glenbard South coach Morgan Kasperek said. "We just couldn't finish."
The Raiders were right there to the finish because of its usual stellar defense, and Bair's heroics.
She scored all but two of Glenbard South's 16 points in the second half. She scored with 1:35 left to tie it 32-32, then again with a minute left to tie it 34-34. She was 10-for-11 from the free-throw line.
She didn't get every rebound, but it sure seemed like it with Bair's remarkable reach.
"There are certain people that have a natural ability to go get rebounds, and Maggie has it," Kasperek said. "She reads the ball off the rim very well, and she knows how her teammates shoot. Sometimes you see her long skinny arms come out of nowhere and I don't know where she came from. That's one of the things that will take Maggie to the next level."
Kasperek is glad to have her for more one year, and Bair's teammates are glad to have her around now.
"When we take shots we have confidence," Glenbard South senior Mady Carli said. "We know she'll be there to clean it up. That gives us a lot of confidence."
Carli and the Raiders came out confident Friday.
Carli scored all six of her points in the first quarter, hitting two early 3-pointers to keep the Raiders within 12-10.
Richwoods had beaten its five previous playoff opponents by an average margin of 29.6 points, and beat three-time defending champion Morton by 20 in a sectional final.
Glenbard South, though, made the Knights play the Raiders' game. Richwoods' 9-0 tun to end the second quarter and start the third nudged the Knights ahead 21-18, but even then the Raiders kept them at arm's length.
Sarah Cohen started the Raiders' defensive effort, holding Richwoods leading scorer Kourtney Crane to 11 points. Glenbard South held its 10th straight opponent under 40 points, and became the first team all season to keep Richwoods from breaking 40 points.
"We play great defense, that's no secret," Kasperek said. "We played pretty much the pace we needed to hang in there. If that was a run-and-gun game we would have lost by 45."