Crane’s clutch shots boost Batavia into Morton semifinals

Batavia junior forward Hallie Crane started to question her desire to continue her basketball career last season.

Crane suffered a serious knee injury early in her sophomore year, which led to her sitting out all of last season.

“Coming back was probably one of the hardest decisions I had to make because I didn’t know if I wanted to play anymore,” Crane said. “I wanted to play one last season with the seniors.”

The Bulldogs are happy Crane elected to return this season. She was cleared to return to the court in the summer.

The 5-foot-10 Crane is thriving in her role coming off the bench for the Bulldogs.

She played a big part in the Bulldogs’ memorable win over Butler Prep on Thursday. Crane drilled a late 3-pointer and Brooke Carlson added a driving lay-in to power the Bulldogs to a thrilling 60-57 victory over Butler Prep in the quarterfinals of the third annual Morton College Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament.

The Bulldogs (13-2) advance to play Fremd in a 6:45 p.m. semifinal on Friday in Cicero.

Crane finished with nine points, the biggest via a rainbow 3-pointer off a feed from Carlson, that swished through the nets for a 56-55 lead with 1:10 left in regulation.

“In the first quarter, I missed my three but I kept my head up and had to get another one, so I just let that last one fly,” Crane said. “It felt good. That was probably one of my biggest shots, so that was really nice for me.”

The Bulldogs relied on a collective effort to knock off powerful Butler Prep, which finished in fourth place in Class 2A last season. Carlson fueled the offense with a game-high 26 points, including the last four points in the final 31 seconds. Carlson won the battle against Butler Prep point guard Xamiya Walton, a Northwestern recruit. Walton scored 17 points but missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer, partly due to a solid on-ball defense by Kylee Gehrt. The Lady Lynx (10-7) picked up 24 points from 6-foot-3 senior forward Sereniti Adams but played without starters Xyanna Walton and Cyra Conwell.

“I can’t be more proud of the seven girls we got here right now,” Butler Prep coach Xaver Walton said. “Our whole focus is to compete and be ready for the state playoffs. I’m disappointed we lost, but it was a great game. Hats off to Butler. We’re down a bit with our seven losses, but people should look at who we lost to. We lost to good teams.”

Carlson matched the physical play by Butler Prep by repeatedly driving the basket, crashing the boards and finding her teammates, including Crane on the decisive play of the game.

“Getting this win gives us confidence, especially in this tournament, gives us confidence for our next game,” Carlson said. “It was very physical. They had a lot of strong and bigger girls. We had to keep fighting for it.”

Batavia junior Addie Prewitt played solid defense and crashed the boards to go with 10 points and two 3-pointers, while grabbing a key defensive rebound with 12 seconds left in regulation.

“We don’t like to lose to this team, so this was very big for us,” Prewitt said. “We all worked hard on defense, to really make sure Xamiya wouldn’t hit a bunch of threes on us. I think we did really well defending her.”

Batavia’s Gehrt played steady on both ends, forcing Walton into a tough 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“I knew Xamiya was a very good player,” Gehrt said. “We scouted her very well. I didn’t guard her all game, but I knew in that moment, I just wanted to stop her and get the win for our team. That was probably the best win I’ve gotten on this team. All of us worked really hard on them to stop them.”

Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said his team showed a lot of toughness in the second half. The Lady Lynx led 40-35 midway through the third quarter, but the Bulldogs had six different players score in the second half. Center Sarah Hecht played solid defense in the paint and added two pivotal second-half baskets.

“Yes, they were missing two starters, but that created a dynamic that makes things difficult when he plays with those two bigs,” Jensen said. “There was a lot of positives. Addi Lowe was hounding their best point guard. Brooke was Brooke. Hallie had a huge three. Addie was huge inside. We had all kinds of people stepping doing well and coming off the bench. Our bigs stepped up in the second half and played a lot more physical.”

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