CRYSTAL LAKE – Austin Rogers doesn’t have to prove himself anymore. Instead, he’s learning a new role.
As a junior last season, Crystal Lake South’s starting guard and leading scorer made a name for himself in the Fox Valley Conference, but now South coach Matt LePage wants Rogers’ talents as a leader and a passer to uplift his teammates.
Everything came together Satuday when the Gators defeated Rockford East, 65-28, in the semifinal round, and then Prairie Ridge, 49-41, in the championship game of the Gary Collins Shootout at South.
“Everybody knows [Rogers] is our guy, but what I was proud of is that he’s become a really good passer, too,” LePage said. “Last year, he might have put his head down and tried to get the extra two, and this year he’s trusting his teammates. That’s a big part of how successful we’ll be.”
Rogers scored the go-ahead bucket on a put-back in the low-post with eight minutes left in the first half against Prairie Ridge, and South never looked back.
“They thrive on my energy, so when I’m playing well, it makes everyone else play well. And when I’m not playing well, I try to give them confidence to shoot the ball well,” Rogers said.
The senior scored a team-high 12 points, but the Gators got scoring from eight other contributors.
“Honestly, today was probably the first day where I thought our mixture of seniors, juniors and sophomores all kind of gelled,” LePage said.
Prairie Ridge made it to the championship game after a thrilling, 46-44, sudden-death overtime win over Larkin in the semifinals. Less than five minutes later, the Wolves changed jerseys and took the floor against South.
“I thought that was probably as well as we have played all summer,” Wolves coach Corky Card said of their semifinal victory. “[Larkin] was very good. They run their stuff very well, and they have bigs that can shoot, score inside and play.”
Prairie Ridge expects to return a lot of upperclassmen next season, so the competition for minutes already has begun.
“It’s nice to play in a championship game,” Card said. “But as I told our kids, this loss shouldn’t be any different than any other game, because you’re really working on what you need to do to find your way to make the team.”