Another close call, and another Wauconda win
It's probably a good thing the Wauconda boys basketball team has tonight off.
It's debatable whether or not the Bulldogs, their fans and their coaches could make it through another game right now, given the way the rest of the week has gone.
Wauconda went 2-0 this week, but by the very slimmest of margins. The Bulldogs got a pair of nerve-wracking 1-point victories, with the latest coming on Friday night in the form of a 45-44 North Suburban Conference Prairie Division win at Round Lake.
Just three days earlier, Wauconda had held on for a 73-72 overtime win against Grant, another division foe.
Interestingly, the Bulldogs, who are now 3-5 on the season (2-1 NSC Prairie) also lost a couple of 1-point games earlier in the season.
"It's definitely stressful," Wauconda guard Keith Blomberg said of the 1-point games. "It's not something that we're wanting to do. But if it happens, it happens. We've just got to make sure we come up on top.
"We learned last year. We weren't really winning the close games then, and now we're starting to win them."
Blomberg did his best to make sure of it this time.
He hit 2 free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining in the game to give Wauconda a 45-41 lead. The makes made up for a miss Blomberg had at the line just seconds earlier
"I just tried to block it all out," Blomberg said of his focus at the line. "I was thinking that it's just me and the basket and I just tried to knock them down."
After he did and a timeout was called, Round Lake inbounded the ball, rolled it the to the halfcourt line before touching it and Karnell Wright drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer to account for the final margin.
Just before Blomberg's free throws, the Panthers had had a chance to take their first lead of the second half. John Ridley, who drained a 3-pointer about 20 seconds earlier to cut Round Lake's deficit to 43-41, teed off again from beyond the arc and seemed on target, but his shot missed. Teammate Rayshawn Bommon collected the offensive rebound but misfired on the putback and Wauconda secured the rebound.
Then, the Panthers, who had clawed back from a deficit that had reached 16 points early in the fourth quarter, had no choice but to foul, which is how Blomberg ended up on the line.
"It was heart and Panther spirit," Round Lake freshman forward James Mobley, who finished with a game-high 19 points, said of the rally. "We knew what we had to do to get back in the game. We did that, we just didn't get it all back.
"But we sure made them remember us. I'm very proud, but we're also disappointed because we knew we could have won this game. We're going to learn from this."
The Panthers (0-7, 0-2 NSC Prairie) undoubtedly learned a tough lesson about ball security. They turned the ball over 18 times and Wauconda took advantage often.
"At the beginning of the game, we were in control of the game and we had gotten up 19-13. Then (Wauconda) put on their full court zone pressure and that's where we had trouble and we turned the ball over," said Round Lake coach Jim Roberts, who also got 12 points out of Wright. "We're inexperienced, we haven't been in a lot of these situations and what happens is that we compound our mistakes."
Round Lake also had trouble defending the paint. Ricky Sidlowski scored 12 points for the Bulldogs and several of his baskets were 2-footers in which he was found wide open by a teammate.
"They were not even on me," Sidlowski said in amazement. "I was just waiting for the ball to be passed to me and then I just laid it in."
Besides Sidlowski, the only other Wauconda player to finish in double-figures was Kodey Thomas. He had a team-high 13 points. The Bulldogs did get good balance as six players had at least 4 points.
"I think we just tightened up at the end and Round Lake was fighting hard," Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager said. "But we were able to hang in there. I think we might be used to these kinds of games now."
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