Crystal Lake Central tops Burlington C. in high-scoring contest

Burlington Central had eyes Friday on Crystal Lake Central senior guard Katie Hamill, who entered the Fox Valley Conference game averaging 24.4 points a game.

The Rockets switched between seniors Kenzie Andersen and Emersyn Fry on Hamill, while also giving the Tigers a few different looks with a box-and-1 defense.

“We made sure we had somebody on Katie at all times,” Burlington Central coach Mike Carani said. “That was our goal. When she got across half court, we had someone in her space and just tried to make her work. We knew we weren’t going to completely deny her, but if we could have made her work harder, hopefully that was going to wear her down towards the end of the game.”

Hamill, who finished the night with 20 points, was held to 12 points through three quarters, but the Tigers had two other girls step up in a big way. Junior forward Leah Spychala led the way with 21 points and sophomore forward Ruby Macke had one of her best games with 15 points and six rebounds.

Crystal Lake Central withstood 15 3-pointers from Burlington Central, and the Tigers prevailed 65-59 in their FVC game, giving them seven wins in their past eight games.

Emma Payton had a magical night for the Rockets (9-10, 5-5 FVC), scoring a career-high 29 points with nine 3s, but the trio of Tigers (11-8, 6-3) was too much.

During Crystal Lake Central’s recent hot streak, the Tigers have been working on getting more players involved on offense, and not just relying on Hamill.

“We’ve really been working on distributing the ball more and making sure that everyone is getting their best looks,” Spychala said. “It helps that we all believe in each other and trust each other so much that when we pass each other the ball we have full confidence that the person with the ball is going to do the right thing with it.”

Crystal Lake Central coach Derek Crabill was excited to see another team switch things up defensively against his team.

“I’ve been waiting for a team to play us in a box-and-1, but if you’ve got two, three or four people that are scoring, then teams can’t do that,” Crabill said. “I think it’s important for us to keep multiple players going. That makes the defense stretch more and doesn’t allow them to do necessarily the things they want to do.

“Winning with one person is really hard, and [Hamill] has done a great job of shouldering the load for the last couple of seasons.”

Spychala had 14 of her 21 points in the first two quarters as the Tigers took a 36-26 lead into halftime.

But the Rockets continued to hit shots from long range in the second half, eventually tying the score at 40. Payton evened the score with her only field goal that wasn’t a 3 with 3:25 left in the third quarter.

Crystal Lake Central, however, responded with a 10-5 run to take a 50-45 lead entering the fourth.

Burlington Central made nine 3s in the second half, with senior guard Savannah Scheuer knocking down her fourth 3 of the game with 2:30 to go, trimming the Tigers’ lead to 59-57.

Hamill, who had 16 rebounds and seven steals, swiped two Burlington Central passes down the stretch and the Tigers scored their final six points at the free-throw line to hold off the Rockets.

For Burlington Central, Payton’s 29 points was followed by 13 from Scheuer and 11 from Fry, who made two 3s. Many of Payton’s 3s came with a hand in her face. She had an off-night in her previous game, but didn’t shy away Friday.

“Today was a great game even though we lost,” said Payton, who also had nine rebounds. “It’s one of our few games where we played a really good team and came out with energy for all four quarters, playing well and just not letting up. Katie Hamill was amazing to play against, and so was Leahy Spychala.

“Coming out and playing with the same intensity all game, we need to to start doing a better job of that. I thought we did a good job of that tonight.”

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