NORRIDGE – The Johnsburg boys basketball team spent the better part of last week trying to figure out where its postseason journey would begin.
The Skyhawks will have less than a day to gear up for a major hurdle they haven't gotten much of a chance to prepare for.
Johnsburg eased into the Class 3A Ridgewood Regional semifinals with a 77-38 play-in victory over Chicago Sullivan on Monday night. But for the Skyhawks, the challenge gets much bigger on Tuesday night, when they face No. 2 seed Carmel.
While the two teams met in last year's Ridgewood Regional semifinal, Johnsburg coach Mike Toussaint didn't even scout Carmel, anticipating his team would be sent to the Richmond-Burton regional. But after an IHSA ruling initially changed the Skyhawks postseason plans, a reversal of that decision shifted Johnsburg back its original destination at Ridgewood.
"We'll go home and watch some film but it's going to be a different game than it was tonight," Toussaint said. "But we'll be all right. It's playoff time and we'll see what happens."
Johnsburg (10-19) never trailed against Sullivan, scoring the game's first 13 points. A lead that grew to more than 40 points allowed Toussaint to experiment with different personnel combinations and get some younger players some postseason experience.
No one took advantage of it more than 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Tanner Kreassig, who scored a team-high 16 points. Kreassig's ability to score inside provided a different look than Johnsburg's normally perimeter-happy offensive attack.
Kreassig's performance will pay off on Tuesday night against Carmel, which will throw much more size at the Skyhawks. Kreassig's production, however, along with 14 points from senior Steve Dixon and 10 points from Alec Graef, can only bolster Johnsburg's confidence moving forward.
"(The win) makes us feel pretty good and we're going to come out firing the same way we did today," Kreassig said.
In all, 12 Johnsburg players scored in Monday's victory – one in which the Skyhawks' starters played only 2 1/2 quarters. While complacency set in at times, Johnsburg was able to execute its offense, blending the 3-point shooting arsenal the Skyhawks typically depend on with finishing around the basket.
With one win out of the way, the Skyhawks know they can't afford any lapses against Carmel if they hope to extend their season beyond Tuesday night.
"We know we have to stay focused," Dixon said.
With a short turnaround, Johnsburg will quickly put Monday's lopsided victory aside, understanding a much more talented opponent awaits.
"We're playing for our lives now," Kreassig said. "It's one loss and we're done and we're playing for the seniors. We're all going to play pretty hard."