Muse's last-second 3 lifts Prairie Ridge over CL South
It was the type of night for Prairie Ridge where it felt like it had to scratch, bite and claw its way to any points.
So perhaps then it's fitting it ended the way it did - with a grueling possession that lasted 45 seconds and finished with a shot from the player who was biting, scratching and clawing with the best of them.
James Muse buried a 3-pointer with 1.1 seconds left to give the Wolves a 40-38 Fox Valley Conference victory over Crystal Lake South on Friday night.
After trailing most of the night, Prairie Ridge had possession with 46.6 seconds left, not long after a huge dunk by Isaiah Kirkeeng gave Crystal Lake South a 38-37 lead.
But coming out of a timeout, the Wolves were patient against a tough Gators defense, making numerous passes and not forcing a poor shot before Muse took a shot from the top of the key that rolled around every part of the rim before falling in to thunderous applause.
Muse finished with only seven points, mostly thanks to some early foul trouble, but tallied 11 rebounds and hit the biggest shot of the season to date for Prairie Ridge (12-9, 6-6).
"We were just kind of moving the ball and wasting the clock and trying to get the last shot," Muse said. "I think Mason (Loucks) kicked it to me. We just weren't getting any looks, so I hit a pump fake, he jumped on it, and I saw space and saw the time.
"This is big after a tough loss Tuesday, so it's nice to get a big win against a tough team in conference and in our town."
It seemed a bit improbable. Prairie Ridge led just three times on a night where offense was at a premium. The first of those leads didn't come until a Loucks 3-pointer with 5:17 left in the third quarter made it 29-26. However, that 3 was followed by a scoring drought of more than nine minutes.
To coach Matt LePage's dismay however, the Gators were only able to build a six-point lead (35-29) before two big 3-pointers from Loucks (6 points) and Zach Lindquist (14 points) helped the Wolves claim a 37-36 advantage with 1:40 left.
Crystal Lake South (13-11, 7-5) scored just 16 points in the second half after scoring 16 points in the first quarter alone.
"I just thought we got stagnant on offense, and I thought we got conservative, and that's a bad combination," LePage said. "I thought we had a couple of chances to extend the lead there in the early fourth, and either we turned the ball over or missed a shot. We played well, but I thought they outcompeted us for the most part."
Early on it didn't seem like it would end that way. The Gators' Arnav Jain came out scorching, hitting five of his first six shots, including a 4-point play that gave Crystal Lake South a 20-13 lead with 6:56 left in the first half. That was, however, the last of 15 points on the evening for Jain, who had just two contested shots in the second half.
That allowed Prairie Ridge to stay within one possession the rest of the first half and the early part of the third quarter.
"They got off to a real hot start," Prairie Ridge coach Ryan Smith said. "They had some kids that hit some tough shots that were well-defended, but they just made a tough shot. We gave up 16 point in that first quarter, which killed us. But we tried to slow down that tempo enough and just slowly chip away."
Cooper LePage added 11 points for Crystal Lake South.