ROLLING MEADOWS – As she munched on a postgame cupcake, Ava Sergio could have pondered what might have been.
She could have weighed the what-ifs, like what if Batavia stayed healthy this season.
She could have replayed any number of plays that made the difference in a two-point game, the third close loss to Lake Park.
But really, none of that mattered most.
Sergio most was thinking about the girls she's played with for as long as she can remember. Sergio will play basketball again, but not with this group.
"It's about my high school career ending, and not being able to be with these girls that I've been with my whole life," said Sergio, a Winona State recruit and one of four Batavia senior starters. "That's the sad part. Not the win or the loss."
Sergio and the Bulldogs simply ran out of time Tuesday.
Ninth-seeded Batavia battled back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit, coming a bucket short in a 61-59 loss to seventh-seeded Lake Park in the Class 4A Rolling Meadows Regional semifinal.
Sergio scored 18 points, junior Erin Golden had 19 points, eight rebounds and three steals and senior Hailey Orman 12 points for Batavia (16-15).
Golden scored seven of her 19 in the fourth quarter, and Orman had back-to-back 3-pointers during Batavia's comeback.
A third Orman 3-point attempt, for the tie, went in and out with 1:50 left. Golden's three-point play, with 4.4 seconds left, provided the final margin.
"I just felt like if that game was 30 seconds longer we're winning," Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. "There's nothing else I could ask of them. They did whatever."
They certainly earned the respect of their opponent. Lake Park junior Darrione Rogers, a DePaul recruit, scored 45 points in the teams' last meeting. She was sensational again, with 31 points and 11 rebounds, scoring on a dazzling assortment of contested 3-pointers and smooth drives to the rim as Lake Park advanced to play top-seeded Rolling Meadows Thursday.
She had the first six points of Lake Park's ultimately decisive 12-0 run, to start the second quarter, even pulling up from 25 feet for a 3-pointer. Lake Park, shooting 67 percent in the second quarter, led 34-27 at half, 55-42 midway through the fourth quarter.
But Rogers knew Batavia wasn't going away.
"Definitely not surprised they came back," Rogers said. "They're a good team. All three games were close. We knew they had some fight in them."
It's easy to see where that fight came from.
The Bulldogs batted away adversity all season. They lost Orman and Geddy Rerko, a Colgate recruit, from mid-December until well into January, Rerko finally returning two weeks ago from a sprained knee ligament.
Nonetheless, Batavia beat the No. 2 seed in the sectional, the No. 4 seed, the No. 5 seed, lost to the No. 3 seed in overtime and so on in a schedule with few breaks.
"It felt like everything was a grind this year, and nothing went our way," Jensen said. "There were a lot of young women who grew up and persevered more than they ever had. We just had to embrace those tough times and persevere."
Sergio grew up, and grew into a downright dominant post.
She scored 53 points over a huge two-day stretch at the Montini tournament in December, and it carried right on through to the rest of the season.
She was nearly automatic whenever she touched the ball Tuesday, even in a fast-paced game more suited for guards. Sergio shot 8-for-11 from the field, her final basket getting Batavia within 59-56 with 1:08 left.
Lake Park even resorted to double teaming her, electing to leave Allison Newberry open on the perimeter.
"Any time I got the ball I would try to go up because they were all over me," Sergio said. "Then, second half I stopped thinking all together. I just tried to get as many points as I could."
Sergio was complimentary of Rogers and Casey Darre's ability to hit tough, step-back shots, even with Batavia's best two defenders on them. The two combined to hit seven of Lake Park's eight 3-pointers.
But Sergio also never doubted Batavia would come back.
"We fought back the whole season," Sergio said. "We're not a team that's going to give up. We had a couple more seconds, we thought we'd get the win."