CL South bests Grayslake Central for 3rd at Hinkle Classic

Crystal Lake South picked the most opportune game to struggle at the free-throw line.

The Gators did so many other things well – sharing the ball with 17 assists, forcing 21 turnovers and hitting 52.9% on field goals – that its 35% free-throw shooting (7 of 20) was an afterthought.

South jumped ahead early and maintained control to beat Grayslake Central 65-52 in the third-place game of Jacobs’ Hinkle Holiday Classic on Thursday at the Eagles’ Nest. It was a rematch of last year’s championship game, which Central won.

“There were some good things. Both teams looked like they were playing their third game in a row, but we had enough depth to get over the hump there in that third quarter,” Gators coach Matt LePage said. “We had a lot of guys come off the bench and give us some good minutes.

“We flew around early, we forced 21 turnovers is what we had them at. We rebounded pretty well. Christian [Rohde] had a good game and got going a little bit in the second half.”

South (14-2) had its 10-game winning streak halted by Lake Zurich in a 67-52 loss Wednesday, but the Gators bounced back nicely. South made 15 of 28 shots in the first half and led 32-23 at halftime, then pushed the lead to as many as 16 in the third quarter.

“We came out sluggish to begin with. I don’t think we got warmed up enough before the game,” Gators guard AJ Demirov said. “We kept building energy and got warmed up and we were good.”

Demirov led South with 14 points, Rohde scored 13 and Tony Santarelli added 11.

“We passed the ball well. At first we were a little bit slow, but we kept the energy and kept playing defense,” said the 6-foot-8 Rohde, who blocked four shots. “If my team gives me the ball, that tells me they trust me, and I want to give that trust back to them. We have good chemistry.”

Guard Jayden Hall hit six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points to keep the Rams (9-5) within striking distance until the third quarter. Xavi Granville added 11 points.

Central, like so many other South foes, struggled with the Gators’ 1-3-1 zone defense.

“The zone gave us some fits,” Rams coach Brian Centella said. “Credit to Crystal Lake South, they’re long, they’re a big, physical team, I just don’t think we were sharp enough early to knock the jitters off a little bit and see the ball go through the hoop.

“I thought, at times, we found a little bit of a rhythm, but never could break through.”

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