CARY – Trailing by nine on its home court, Cary-Grove’s chance to put itself in position to win the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division girls basketball title outright was fading.
Huddled during a timeout and approaching the 5-minute mark of the fourth quarter, C-G coach Rod Saffert wanted his team to envision a successful comeback.
“Imagine how cool it’s going to be when you pull this out in five minutes,” Saffert said.
It was all Trojans from that point on. Sophomore guard Katie Barker connected for two 3-pointers to pull C-G within three points. Huntley answered with a pair of free throws with 3:10 remaining, but the Red Raiders would not score the rest of the quarter.
C-G, fueled by back-to-back steals and layups by seniors Josyln Nicholson and Olivia Jakubicek, closed with a 5-0 run to force overtime. The Trojans kept the momentum in overtime and never trailed en route to a 50-44 FVC Valley win.
“If you play defense, you’re never out of a game,” Saffert said. “They’re going to be a tough team for many years to come.”
With a win Tuesday at home against Dundee-Crown, the Trojans (19-6, 10-1 FVC Valley) will win the division title outright, which would be their fourth straight title.
“I think we just got into the mentality that is our home court,” said Nicholson, who finished with 15 points. “You can’t come here and just take the win from us. We knew we had to play defense and play really, really hard because defense is what’s going to get us a win.”
The Trojans missed a chance to win the game in regulation tied at 37 after holding possession for the final minute after a Red Raiders offensive foul. C-G was unable to capitalize on an open look at the baseline corner out of a timeout with 11 seconds left. A Nicholson free throw and Sarah Kendeigh’s 3-pointer put C-G ahead by five two minutes into overtime.
Twice Huntley pulled back within two points on layups by Bethany Zornow and Amanda Kaniewski. But C-G delivered the decisive blow off an inbounds play that found Jakubicek running open down the length of the court. Jakubicek hauled in the long pass and made an easy layup to give the Trojans a 45-41 lead. Jakubicek finished with a game-high 21 points and became C-G’s No. 2 all-time leading scorer (1,252 points) passing Eve Barry.
“It was disappointing with our lack of toughness down the stretch,” Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. “But with that said, this was a great game. Our kids played extremely well. They did everything they needed to do with the exception of handling that pressure down the stretch and try to put us in a position to get fouled or get a layup or good shot.”
Huntley (21-5, 10-2) used a 2-3 zone against the Trojans, a defense the Red Raiders typically don’t employ often, but it was effective. The Red Raiders held C-G to only four points in the second quarter and six points in the third. C-G was kept off the scoreboard from the 3:30 mark of the third quarter until Barker’s 3-pointer with 5:14 left in the game.
Sam Andrews and Ali Andrews led Huntley with 14 points each.
“By the fourth quarter, we know we have one more quarter and we have to give everything we have, especially against a team like this,” Jakubicek said. “We couldn’t afford to just go out there and not give it our best shot.”