CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central’s pregame talk centered around the long basketball season and how teams can lose focus, and how sometimes even on the tightest of families, people can get on each other’s nerves.
Whatever problems the Tigers had last week in two trips to Grayslake – with an overtime loss to last-place Grayslake Central and a narrow win against fifth-place Grayslake North – were far behind them Tuesday night.
There were no worries and free-flowing offense as just about everything went right for Central, like D.J. Thomas’ half-court 3-pointer to end the first half and David Panicko’s back-to-back dunks in the third quarter.
“We all came together and decided, ‘Let’s just have fun tonight,’ ” said Thomas, who came off the bench for a game-high 21 points. “We’ve kind of been going through the motions and tonight it was more getting back into like it was in the beginning of the year.”
Central rolled to a 76-42 victory over Johnsburg in a Fox Valley Conference Fox Division boys basketball game that gave Central a share of the division championship with Hampshire, which defeated Woodstock North, 63-46. Since Central swept Hampshire, it plays at 7 p.m. Friday in the FVC crossover placement game between the first-place teams.
“After last week, I was just hoping we didn’t trip over the half-court line,” Tigers coach Rich Czeslawski said. “Sometimes families bicker and fight, and it was time to squash all that and get a renewed focus for the postseason. And they responded. They had a renewed focus. You could see it, there was a different feel in the locker room before and after the game.”
Central (23-3 overall, 10-2 FVC Fox) got 16 from Thomas in the first half. He grabbed a rebound with four seconds remaining, dribbled to half-court and swished a runner for a 38-19 lead.
“I heard someone counting down and you never know if it’s right or wrong,” Thomas said. “I just threw it up there and I thought it was 6 feet short to tell you the truth. It went in, that was a shocker.”
Panicko scored 18 points on 9 of 12 field-goal shooting. He got a two-hand slam off an assist from Jake Vanscoyoc with 3:05 to go in the third, and 20 seconds later took a feed from Kyle Fleck for an identical dunk.
“After the first one, I was like, ‘Wow! That felt really good,’ ” Panicko said. “After the second one, ‘It happened again.’ It was the same exact place and everything.”
Panicko could have possibly had a third one when Fleck lobbed for an alley-oop the next trip, but Panicko was not expecting it and just tipped it in.
“There was a lot more energy before the game,” Panicko said. “We were a lot more positive and laid back and everything. We just needed a game where everybody was loose out there and having a good time.”
Corban Murphy added 15 points for Central, which won its second FVC Fox title in three seasons.
T.J. Sigmund led Johnsburg (13-13, 5-7) with 10 points. The Skyhawks play at Crystal Lake South Friday in the fourth-place crossover game.
“They’re better than us, we got our butts kicked,” Skyhawks coach Mike Toussaint said. “I thought we had a lot to play for tonight, but what [Central] was playing for, they wanted it more. We didn’t do the things we wanted to do.”