Antioch tips Wauconda, creates 4-way tie for NLCC lead

What Antioch senior Carter Webb couldn't hear he could clearly see in the frenetic and deafening final seconds of Friday night's Northern Lake County Conference boys basketball showdown with Wauconda.

Wauconda had just missed two open looks to force overtime and Webb and teammate Jason Lee were in a battle for rebound. While Webb never heard the final buzzer he quickly sensed Antioch had survived with a dramatic 48-46 victory on its home court.

"I turned around and the entire student section was rushing the court," said Webb, who had 16 points and hit 4 first-half 3-pointers. "I thought, 'We just won. I'm so happy we won.'"

Because the wild ending was the latest twist in the crazy NLCC race that now has Antioch (13-15, 10-3) in a four-way tie for first with Wauconda (16-11, 10-3) and defending co-champs Grayslake Central (18-9, 10-3) and Lakes (13-15, 10-3). Grayslake Central beat North Chicago 73-57 on Thursday night and red-hot Lakes beat Grayslake North 40-38 when JJ Jackson found Jimmy Kania for a 3 from the corner with five seconds to play Friday.

"We've been underdogs for 43 years," junior Marshall Gehrke said of Antioch getting in position to end the drought since its last league title. "It's all heart and all grit from the whole team. There's a number going up and that's all that matters."

Gehrke, who scored 11 of his 18 points after halftime, was looking up at the Antioch record board where the last of its 22 boys basketball conference titles was in the old Northwest Suburban by the 1981 Elite Eight qualifier led by the Big Ten big-man tandem of John Ploss (Wisconsin) and Dee Maras (Illinois). NLCC play ends Tuesday as the Sequoits host Round Lake (1-26, 0-13), Lakes is at Grant and Wauconda still has a shot at its third title in five years at Grayslake Central.

And Antioch reversed a 14-point loss in the first meeting at Wauconda by shooting 55.9% from the field (19-for-34) and installing a combination of 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones Wednesday to contain high-scoring Braeden Carlsen (13 points on 5-for-13 shooting).

"We did a good job of disguising it so they couldn't figure it out and wherever Carlsen was we tagged him," Webb said.

"The foundations of our defense were in everything we do and we placed our guys in different locations," Antioch coach Sean Connor said after Wauconda shot 36.4% (16-for-44) from the field. "(Carlsen) is a fantastic player. You can't let a kid like him get touches because any time he does he's going to score 30."

Webb was red-hot early as he hit 4 of 5 3s — with 3 off Joel Bulka's 5 assists — and had 14 points for a 26-17 halftime lead. Carlsen stifled Webb after the break and a pair of 3s by Cayden Mudd (14 points) and a big boost off the bench from sophomore Cole Plucinski (6 points) gave Wauconda its only lead at 30-29. Plucinski's layup off a Carlsen feed tied it at 33-33 with 1:24 left in the third.

Antioch calmly responded with an 11-0 run where it took advantage of mismatches inside and led 44-33 on Jack Majerowski's layup off Webb's feed with 5:23 left.

"It's just experience," Gehrke said. "Our starting five has all been on varsity multiple years and we all know how to work together."

But Antioch's free-throw shooting of 2-for-8 in the final 2:26 and 6-for-16 overall gave Wauconda an opening and Carlsen sandwiched two 3s around Mudd's 3 free throws to cut the deficit to 47-46 at 0:41. Antioch junior Teddi Wetu (8 points) hit the second of 2 free throws with 30.6 seconds left to set up the tension-filled conclusion.

"All the credit goes to the kids — from the moment I got the job here they've bought into everything we've asked," Connor said.

"It's great," Webb said. "I've been on varsity all four years through the rebuilding of the program and no one believed in him (Connor) except for us on the team. It's so great to put a number up (on the record board) for him."

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