CRYSTAL LAKE – Prairie Ridge’s Michael Bradshaw wore a big grin.
The junior guard just scored 38 points, was the main reason his Wolves were able to defeat Carmel, 76-71, Saturday night, and he helped his teammates finish a plate of brownies after the game.
“It was just a really good day,” Bradshaw said. “When the shots started falling right away, I knew I had it going. You can just tell sometimes, and this was one of them.”
Bradshaw opened the game with the hot hand and made three of his first four 3-point attempts, which propelled Prairie Ridge to an early lead. But it was short lived as Carmel took back the lead and controlled the majority of the game until the Wolves went ahead with 5:48 left in the game.
Carmel adjusted its defensive strategy midgame and focused on the red-hot Bradshaw.
After Bradshaw’s early points, Carmel shut him down for a 13-minute stretch where he didn’t score at all. It was then the Corsairs made their move. They rode point guard Nickai Poyser and his quick spin moves and Cullen Barr in the post in a 23-point first quarter and managed to stave off the Wolves defensively.
“We wanted to get out and run early,” Prairie Ridge coach Corky Card said. “We were able to do that somewhat, but Carmel is a good team and they didn’t give us anything easy. They are a difficult team to defend because they have all of the facets you want in a team: size, length and speed.”
Though playing from behind for the majority of the game and at one point by as much as nine, the Wolves continued to stay aggressive and shot the basketball with growing success as the game wore on.
In the middle of the third quarter and up until the final buzzer, it was the “Michael Bradshaw Show.” His first five field goals were 3-pointers until he started to find room underneath the basket where he was equally as devastating. He scored four points in a two second span when he scored on a fadeaway, then stole the Carmel inbound pass and scored again.
“I didn’t even realize what I was doing,” Bradshaw said of his career performance. His previous high was 20 points while the Prairie Ridge school record is set at 42 points. “My teammates were telling me when I was on the bench how many I was scoring. I just felt really good out there. We were pushing the ball on offense and we gained more and more confidence every time we got a big stop on defense.”
The Wolves were swarming on defense, which clearly frustrated the Carmel players. The Corsairs committed a slew of fouls as a result and the Wolves found themselves in the bonus during the third quarter and took full advantage.
Bradshaw made all 12 of his free throws while Prairie Ridge collectively shot 29 for 37 from the stripe.
“Getting to the free-throw line gets me in rhythm,” Bradshaw said. “It’s a smooth motion, and if you can get that going, then it helps out on the floor.”
The electrifying comeback performance capped a strong tournament showing by the Wolves, who are 3-0 on the season.
“We are not the most talented team out there,” Card said. “But we want to make sure that we are in the best shape and that we always play smart. We don’t have the size or the strength that some teams do, but if we can be the most conditioned and controlled down the stretch, it will work in our favor.”
McHenry 60, Belvidere North 44: McHenry coach Tim Paddock couldn’t have been happier with the way his team competed throughout the tournament.
His Warriors (1-2) had just earned their first victory of the season, defeating Belvidere North, 60-44. The Warriors improved each game and shot the ball especially well in their win.
“It feels really good to get that win,” Paddock said. “We had good communication on defense and we shot the ball well. We have some good shooters on this team and we try to use a spread style offense that opens up the floor for these guys.”
McHenry’s Damian Zalewski had a game-high 14 points, and Greg Johnson added 13 points with three 3-pointers.
Huntley 60, Hoffman Estates 48: Huntley improved to 3-0 with a win over Hoffman Estates, but there was a point in the game where it looked bleak for the Red Raiders.
The four-point lead the Red Raiders had at the beginning of the second half quickly evaporated when the Hawks went on a 12-2 run. Huntley gave up seven straight points before point guard Bryce Only connected on a runner, but the Red Raiders couldn’t gain the momentum back until coach Marty Manning called a timeout.
“I didn’t want to call a timeout,” Manning said. “I had four seniors on the floor during that stretch and I wanted to see if they could work through it. We had some mental mistakes that we need to cut down on.”
The Red Raiders finished the tournament with what Manning said was great progress.
“Each game we got better and better,” he said. “We played about 10 bad minutes of basketball out of 32 today and I think that if we can cut that down each game to just two minutes then we will be in great shape.”
Only scored a game-high 20 points, including a clutch third-quarter buzzer beater to tie the score at 46. Jake Wagner provided explosivness, adding 14 points.
CL Central 60, Antioch 31: The Tigers (2-1) finished their tournament with two wins. Coach Rich Czeslawski was pleased with the way his team improved after a disappointing loss to Hoffman Estates in the first game.
With the two blowout victories, the Tigers were able to get everyone in the game for important experience.
“It is nice to get everyone on film,” Czeslawski said. “Even with those guys in we are always trying to stay aggressive and engrain the right mindset.”
D.J. Thomas scored a game-high 12 points for the Tigers. Brad Knoeppel and Corban Murphy each added 11.
“Thomas has had himself a great three games,” Czeslawski said. “This is really his first varsity games, and I love the way he plays.”
Czeslawski also noted that the goal of $15,000 raised for cancer research and care was likely attained, though final numbers won’t be available for a couple of days. Last year the tournament raised $10,000.