White Bear Lake blew a seven-point lead in the final minte but fended off an upset bid by Woodbury 43-42 on a last-second rebound and free shot by Neveah Hughes on Thursday evening in their Section 4AAAA opener at home.

The Bears (10-9) now face East Ridge (14-5) in the semifinals Tuesday.

Lauren Eckerle sank 21 points and Hughes 14 for the Bears, who had beaten Woodbury 69-53 and 62-28 in conference but almost got stung in the third meeting. The Royals (3-16) were led by Mattea Henry with 12 points and Maggie McCarthy with eight.

The Bears opened a 39-31 lead after a 3-pointer by Danielle Madden and still led 42-35 with just under a minute left.

However, with coach Jeremy Post yelling “Don’t foul! Don’t foul!,” the Bears committed two shooting fouls and gave up four points in one trip down the floor, then missed two free shots, after which Woodbury’s Liana Buckhalton tied the score with a three-pointer from the wing with 29 seconds left.

But the Bears regrouped and worked the ball around until Eckerle, with four ticks left, drove for a contested layup which she missed, but Hughes rebounded with a second left, got fouled, and sank the first of two free shots. 

The Bears have lost twice to East Ridge, their next opponent, in close games, 54-52 (overtime) and 56-52.

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