Lakes downs Grayslake Central, ties for NLCC lead

It's not often that just one defensive play can completely turn around a basketball game.

But that's what happened Friday night at Lakes, and it occurred with just a couple of seconds remaining in the second quarter.

In a battle for first place in the Northern Lake County Conference, visiting Grayslake Central controlled the first half, and it looked like the Rams were going to take a 5-point lead into intermission.

Then Lakes guard Jaden Jackson made a clutch steal and was able to covert it into a layup at the halftime buzzer to cut the deficit to 27-24. That gave the Eagles the momentum, and they rode the wave to a huge win.

Lakes scored the first 8 points of the third quarter and didn't look back, cruising to a 55-43 victory.

The Eagles and Rams are now tied for the top spot in the NLCC, both with 10-2 records.

"JJ (Jackson) had that steal, and that gave us the spark," said Lakes coach Chris Snyder. "We came into the locker room really fired up and motivated, and we used that in the third quarter.

"We held them (Grayslake Central) to 6 points in the third, so a great defensive effort."

Eagles guard Cade Primack, who scored 12 points and was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line, added that Jackson is someone that the team can always depend on.

"JJ does a heck of a job on defense," said Primack. "He does all the dirty work for us, stuff that doesn't always show up on the stat sheet. That steal was a huge momentum swing for us."

"We felt confident coming in after a great week of practice. We believe in each other and wanted to come out tonight and show everyone that we're for real."

Rams 6-foot-6 senior forward Jake Gibson had 5 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 of his 6 blocked shots in the first two quarters as Grayslake Central led just about the entire way before halftime.

Then Lakes took the lead for good with just a minute gone by in the third.

Primack and Brock Marino had quick buckets, Tyson Dewey got a steal and fed Marino for a dunk, then Dewey hit a hook shot.

Just like that, it was 32-27 Eagles.

"Hats off to Lakes, they played a great game," said GC coach Brian Centella. "In the last 10 or 15 games they're playing as well as anyone in the area.

"I thought we came out ready to play in the first half, but they came out with a great second half. I just felt like we didn't have that one answer back."

Lakes kept extending the lead, and took a double-digit advantage midway through the final stanza when guard Tyler Anderson had a bucket with 3 minutes remaining.

And despite 7 free throws down the stretch from GC guard Dennis Estepp, the Rams couldn't get any closer.

"In the days leading up to this game," said Eagles hero Jackson, "we kept telling ourselves just take it one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, one second at a time.

"Every single second we worked hard tonight, and we were able to get the win."

Sam Cooper led GC, which is now 23-4 overall on the year, with 14 points.

Marino scored 10 for Lakes (18-7) while Dewey added 9.

"You kind of put the work in for nights like this," said Snyder. "They (GC) are a great team and are having a great season, so credit to our guys. It was fun tonight, a good game and a good atmosphere."

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