Wauconda proves it’s ready for Grayslake Central, NLCC race

Braeden Carlsen and Wauconda showed that being battle tested can make the difference.

Carlsen scored 26 poInts as Wauconda, which toughened up its schedule this year, blew past North Lake County Conference rival Grayslake Central 66-48 Friday in Wauconda.

The win broke part of the logjam atop the NLCC as Wauconda (12-8, 6-1) knocked the Rams (12-6, 5-2) down a peg in the conference race.

Antioch, which beat Round Lake, is tied with Wauconda for the conference lead. Wauconda, which beat Antioch earlier this year, will travel to both Antioch and Grayslake Central for rematches.

But thanks to scheduling a number of 4A schools, Wauconda coach Ty Weidner said his team has learned to play through challenges.

“As we talked, our strength of schedule is a lot more difficult this year,” Weidner said. “We have one goal that we talked about this summer — win conference and go for a regional. That is exactly what we are trying to do.”

Carlsen, who is committed to Mercer next season, said that playing this type of schedule has helped the Bulldogs in difficult situations.

“We have been playing some tough teams,” said Carlsen, who also finished with seven rebounds and three assists.

“Conference play is always more engaged and involved. I really think that these last four games against these 4A schools have built us to what we did today. We know when we go out there, we have to do our thing.”

Grayslake Central hit the glass hard on the offensive end to grab an early 8-6 lead.

That's when Carlsen took over. He hit a pair of baskets as Wauconda scored the final 10 points of the quarter. But Carlsen and Wauconda weren't finished.

With North now focused on stopping Carlsen, it opened up the floor for his teammates. Tyler Tylka (6 points, 7 rebounds) buried a a three from the corner. Then Carlsen made a sweet pass to Nicholas Ori, then Carlsen followed with a layup.

All that helped the Bulldogs score the first seven points of the second quarter and end a 17-0 run as Wauconda built a 23-8 advantage with 5:06 left in the first half.

“We said to body the ball,” Weidner said. “Actually box out, get it with two and then eyes up the floor. We started slow and then got into a little bit of rhythm and saw what they were doing,”

Grayslake North got as close as 24-14, but the Bulldogs’ Zach Miller scored all seven of his points as Wauconda went on a 13-6 run to put the game away.

“That's all it takes,” Carlsen said. “Especially in practice when we are doing some drills, when we hit one shot, then we just start banging them. We are a team that builds on momentum. When we have a crowd like this and energy building, we feel like no one can stop us.”

Cayden Mudd, who scored most of his 17 points driving to the hoop, said he has been told to get the ball to the rim.

“Coach tells me to get to the rack first and then let everything else come to me,” Mudd said. “We took this game very seriously. It was a huge win and game that we needed under our belt.”

Grayslake Central was led by Xavi Granville, who had 15 points and 6 rebounds. Jayden Hall chipped in 8 points, Kai Taylor had 7 points while Chris James had six points and seven rebounds.

“They had a really good stretch and jumped all over us,” Grayslake Central coach Bryan Centella said. “We didn't respond. We have to be better collectively as a team defensively. We weren't tonight. We just never were able to get back in sync.”

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