Granville’s 29 points, last-minute heroics lift Grayslake Central

Grayslake Central had the X factor to overcome the major challenges posed by Cary-Grove in Tuesday night's Hinkle Holiday Classic quarterfinal.

The Rams' hopes of defending their tournament title didn't look so hot with deficits of 11 points in the third quarter and 7 points with 1:24 to play in regulation. But having a player like 6-foot-4 junior Xavi Granville certainly made it easier to believe it was possible at Jacobs High School in Algonquin.

Granville scored a career-high 29 points and sparked closing runs by the fifth-seeded Rams of 7 points in regulation and 10 points in overtime as they eluded Cary's upset bid 65-56.

"This time when we went to overtime it felt completely different," Granville said of a pair of overtime losses earlier this season. "There wasn't one time where I thought we were going to lose."

Granville's steal and three-quarter court drive for a left-hand dunk broke a tie at 56-56 with 1:26 left and put the Rams (9-3) on their way into today's 6 p.m. semifinal against top-seed Waubonsie Valley (11-0), which beat Grant 71-33 behind 21 points from Elijah Whitaker and 14 from Tyreek Coleman.

Granville scored 12 points in the final 5 1/2 minutes, shot 10-for-14 from the field and had 13 rebounds and 4 assists. His step-back 3-pointer on a feed from Jayden Hall tied it at 53-53 with 56 seconds left in regulation.

"If that's the one he's going to hit you've got to live with it," said Cary coach Adam McCloud.

"He showed everything - and how about the steals and the blocks," said Central coach Brian Centella. "Those little things are what separates the good from the great. Great players impact winning and that's what he does."

Cary (6-8), which plays Grant today at 3 p.m., was a completely different team from the one that lost to the Rams 47-29 last Thursday. The Trojans were 1-for-12 on 3s in the first half but sophomore A.J. Berndt (16 points on 4-for-8 3s), Ryan Elbert (10 points) and Jake Hornok (12 points, 6 rebounds) combined to go 5-for-7 behind the arc for a 38-27 lead with three minutes left in the third.

"We played a much better game than a couple of nights ago," McCloud said. "I'm proud of the effort but disappointed we let it get away."

Junior sixth-man Aayan Siddiqui (15 points, 7 rebounds) made sure it didn't get too far out of reach for the Rams with two 3s and 10 fourth-quarter points.

"One of the biggest strengths of our team is our versatility," Granville said.

"I told Aayan in the locker room he took over the game there for a stretch," Centella said. "We needed every single basket he provided and he's a talented scorer as well."

Berndt's tough lane drive put the Trojans up 53-46 with 1:43 left in regulation. They had a chance to win after the Rams' rally but Hornok's drive in traffic in the closing seconds missed.

P.J. Weaver gave Cary two leads in overtime with a layup and a free throw. Granville tied it with a free throw off an offensive rebound and then stripped a ball-handler for his go-ahead dunk.

"Whenever I get a chance to dunk I'm going to dunk it," Granville said. "I noticed him coming around a screen and took a gamble."

An Eric Brum steal and Cayden Woods' feed set up Hall's 3 at 0:51. Hall and Granville sealed it with 4-for-4 free-throw shooting.

"We just have to do better taking care of the ball," McCloud said after Cary committed 5 turnovers in the final 5 1/2 minutes. "We made some critical mistakes they capitalized on and their best player took the game over on the offensive end and defensively."

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