ALGONQUIN – Crystal Lake Central had something akin to the perfect storm in its favor.
First, the one-loss Tigers had been playing strong basketball.
Then, there was the Jacobs Holiday Classic championship game opponent, crosstown rival Crystal Lake South, an easy team to get inspired to play.
Plus, the Tigers had lost to Huntley in last year’s Jacobs’ championship, providing Central coach Rich Czeslawski an ideal moment to fire up his team beforehand in the locker room.
“He took a [baseball] bat to our second-place trophy and it exploded,” said Tigers guard Jake Vanscoyoc with a huge grin. “He said that wasn’t what we wanted. It was good.”
Forward David Panicko hit a 3-pointer 20 seconds into the game, setting the tone for a 37-point first half as Central defeated South, 65-43, for its first title at Jacobs since 2004.
“We performed a little ritual on the second-place trophy from last year,” Czeslawski said. “The guys were a little excited about it. They came out and played hard.”
Central (12-1) shot 64 percent in the first half and led by at least 12 points through the second half.
“We were really jacked up for this game,” said Panicko, who scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “It felt amazing out there. I thought we were never going to stop scoring. If we can translate that type of ball movement the rest of the season, the sky’s the limit for us.”
Vanscoyoc led all players with 19 points and Brad Knoeppel added 17. Panicko, center Kyle Fleck and forward Corban Murphy all made the all-tournament team.
South (5-7) even tried going away from its man-to-man defense in the second quarter, something Gators coach Matt LePage rarely does.
“It was a bad situation,” LePage said. “We didn’t play very well and they played great. They’re such a matchup problem and we tried the [2-3] zone for a while. It worked for about 3 minutes, then they went on a run again.”
Forward Austin Rogers, the Gators’ all-tournament selection, led them with 14, Max Meitzler added 10 and Nick Geske scored nine.
“We thought they might go zone at some point, that was smart on their part,” Czeslawski said. “We told the guys we needed to handle that, and we did.”