Antioch tripped up by McHenry in closing minutes

McHenry had a huge problem holding on to the basketball during the first half of its nonconference road game against Antioch on Thursday afternoon.

The Warriors turned the ball over eight times in the first quarter, then three more times in the second, digging themselves a five-point halftime deficit.

But McHenry (12-4) eventually solved the Sequoits’ frustrating 1-3-1 zone, and rallied for a thrilling 48-44 win.

Adam Anwar’s game-high 18-point effort, which included four 3-pointers and 10 second-half points, woke up McHenry’s offense, which opened the game in a slumber.

The Warriors missed their first six 3s, and were outscored 13-4 during the opening eight minutes. But Anwar sank five of his final seven shots, and McHenry went 10 for 18 from the field in the second half.

“I think my shots are sort of a confidence thing,” Anwar said. “I know my teammates have confidence in me and each other, and I’ve worked hard to make outside shooting a bigger part of my game.”

McHenry scored the game’s first basket, but after an Antioch 3 several possessions later, the Warriors trailed until the final basket of the third quarter.

That’s when Marko Visnjevac (17 points) sank a layup on a full-court, home-run inbound pass with 8.4 seconds left in the third.

He was fouled hard on the play, went crashing to the ground, then sank the ensuing free throw to complete the three-point play. It put the Warriors ahead, 34-33, headed to the fourth.

For the first time all game, McHenry found itself with a surge of much-needed momentum.

“We made it a point to make better decisions with the basketball in the second half,” Anwar said. “We didn’t want to give them any more extra possessions. Guys took it upon themselves to step it up down the stretch.”

Antioch (7-8) briefly took the lead back with 1:55 left to play, as Teddi Wetu (15 points) sank a gritty layup to put the Sequoits up 44-43.

But Visnjevac gave McHenry the lead for good, as he buried a 3 with 1:17 left.

“Anytime you have that much intensity, it’s just fun,” McHenry coach Corky Card said. “The energy in the stands, on the bench ... you can feel it. It’s just good fun.

“Antioch came out with a gameplan doing everything they could to slow us down. And they had a good plan in the halfcourt. I’m just happy we escaped here with a win. We made just enough plays to get the win.”

None was bigger than Antioch’s final possession.

Trailing 46-44, with 23.2 seconds left, Sequoits coach Sean Connor drew up a play for either his team’s top scorer this season, Carter Webb, on the wing, or Marshall Gehrke (16 points) in the lane.

But the Sequoits couldn’t get a good look, thanks to McHenry’s smothering defense, and a pass into the paint with 3.9 seconds left went off the fingertips of an Antioch player and out of bounds, resulting in a turnover.

That problem was compounded by the fact Antioch had only committed one fourth-quarter foul, meaning McHenry wasn’t in the bonus yet, either.

As a result, Antioch had to commit four fouls in the final 3.9 seconds. It finally sent Visnjevac to the foul line for two free throws with 0.1 seconds left.

He swished both, and the Sequoits ran out of time. In past seasons, a team needed to commit seven fouls in a half to put an opposing team in the bonus.

But a rule change this season made it so a team has to commit five fouls in a quarter before another team shoots free throws.

“In hindsight, me and our coaching staff should’ve been more aware of that being a potential scenario,” Connor said. “I’m actually a fan of the new rule, even though it hurt us today. There are way fewer stoppages in the second half of games.”

Connor, whose team is in first place and unbeaten at 4-0 in the Northern Lake County Conference, praised both McHenry and his own players.

“I’m thrilled with the intensity our guys came out with today,” Connor said. “We’ve intentionally scheduled some real tough nonconference games to prepare ourselves for our conference and postseason schedules.

“Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way. But this was an outstanding lesson for us. McHenry is an excellent team with some coaching legends on its bench in Coach Card, Rich Czeslawski and Rob (Niemic). We will emerge from this a better, more prepared basketball team.”

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