JOHNSBURG – Johnsburg's boys basketball team is no stranger to runs and sprints, but they were force-fed an extra helping of each on Friday.
Crystal Lake Central ran its uptempo offense and avoided the Skyhawks's 2-3 zone well enough to grab their third straight Fox Valley Conference Fox Division win, 73-56.
"I think we handled their zone pretty well," said Tigers senior Corban Murphy, who scored a game-high 20 points. "It slowed us down a little bit, but we were still able to run up and down the floor."
After trailing by as much as 18 points, Johnsburg closed to within six points twice in the second half.
Junior forward Mike Conroy scored a team-high 16 points for the Skyhawks (9-11 overall, 2-3 FVC Fox).
"It was a game of runs all night long," Skyhawks coach Mike Toussaint said. "We just couldn't finish a run and close the gap."
Seniors Brad Knoeppel (five points) and David Panicko (18) drained 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give Central (17-2, 5-1) an early five-point advantage that they never surrendered.
By 2:26 in the second quarter the Tigers had launched into a 14-5 run that included seven transition buckets for an 18 point lead.
"In the first half they just got out and flew on us," Toussaint said. "There was a point in the second quarter where I had all five guys gassed, and that can't happen. That's on me."
But before his team had gone into the locker room, Johnsburg junior Steve Nixon (12) provided a spark off the bench. He hit four straight threes in the final few minutes on the half, including a shot from the left wing at the horn.
"If [Dixon] comes out and hits his first one, he's usually good for three or four," Toussaint said.
The Skyhawks fed off of that momentum.
With 3:11 left in the third quarter senior point guard Kevin Dombrowski borrowed a play from Central's book, beating a defender with a juke in transition to bring the Skyhawks to within 51-42.
Senior Ben Dingman kicked out a pass to Henry Lobermeier (11) who hit a baseline three to close the gap to 51-45.
"We've had a tendency lately to get out to a big lead and then relax, and we have to find a way to stop doing that," Central coach Rich Czeslawski said.
"That's a team that you can't do that with. They've got shooters; they've got athletes. That's a team that's much better than your record, and I was worried that if we let up that was going to happen, and it did."
An 8-0 Skyhawks run brought them to within six points again in the fourth quarter, but the Tigers took a timeout and re-gained their step.
Czeslawski expected the pressure.
"This is a team we thought we could push the ball on before they got into the zone on occasion," he said. "If you see the top of the standings in our division, you know you can't take any night off."