Crystal Lake South thwarts Cary-Grove's comeback, still perfect in FVC

Matt LePage had a challenge for his players to start the second half of Crystal Lake South's game against Cary-Grove on Wednesday night.

Stop thinking too much.

The Gators coach thought his players focused too much on what the Trojans ran defensively in the first half, which is why they couldn't move and score the ball as smoothly as he wanted.

Crystal Lake South players loosened up, using a big run to take a large lead and held off a late Cary-Grove comeback to win 50-45.

"We found a way," LePage said. "I didn't think it was the prettiest basketball game, but Cary-Grove played extremely hard and made a bunch of tough shots down the stretch to keep them in the game and give them a chance. They played really well."

Neither team took control of the game in the first half as both played in their first game back from the winter break. Both teams felt each other out for much of the first half, with neither team taking a lead greater than five.

The Gators (9-4, 5-0) had a 22-17 lead late in the second quarter before Cary-Grove finished the half on a 6-0 run to lead 23-22 at the half.

Then Crystal Lake South loosened up.

Isaiah Kirkeeng scored the Gators' first four points of the second half as they moved the ball around more and hit open shots. Crystal Lake South used a 14-2 run at the start of the third quarter and outscored the Trojans 14-6 in the third quarter.

Cary-Grove applied more pressure in the fourth quarter to draw the game closer. Kyle Ochwat made it a 43-41 Gators lead with 1:50 left in the game when he knocked in a 3-pointer and 47-44 with: 24.6 left on another make from beyond the arc, but Crystal Lake South made its free throws to put the game away for good.

"I thought we did enough to get a win on the road," LePage said. "We'll take it."

Zach Peltz led the Gators with 15 points while Kirkeeng added 12 points and eight rebounds. Arnav Jain scored 10 points, seven of which came late in the fourth quarter to help finish the game for the Gators.

Crystal Lake South had different key players hit different important shots throughout the game, which Peltz knows is what makes this team so tough to defend.

"I feel like anyone on the team can make any shot that they want," Peltz said. "We have full talent everywhere and every player can do everything."

Ochwat led the way for the Trojans with 19 points. Michael Clarke and Zachary Bauer each scored 9 points while John Mau added 8.

Cary-Grove (7-8, 2-3) coach Adam McCloud has seen this from his team before. The Trojans failed to hit open shots in the third quarter, which led to a large deficit.

McCloud appreciated the way his players battled back to make it a tight game late, but wants his players to work on avoiding the letdowns, which lead to late comebacks.

"I'm proud of my guys in terms of the way they battle, but our consistency has to get better if we want to win those games," McCloud said. "Proud of the effort, disappointed with the outcome."

The Trojans hit the road on Friday to take on a tough test against Burlington Central while the Gators will host Huntley on Friday.

Crystal Lake South is off to a hot start in conference play, and wins like Wednesday night are cherished during a race to a conference crown.

"I think that's probably our most-balanced game of the year, which is good," LePage said. "In conference, every night is a grind and tonight was a different type of game and we found a way."

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