CARPENTERSVILLE – Crystal Lake South coach Kyle McCaughn takes pride in his Gators playing solid defense on a nightly basis.
Allowing 21 points to Hononegah in the first quarter Saturday wasn’t what he had in mind. The Indians torched South behind the 3-point line making three of their nine 3-pointers in the first quarter alone. It forced the Gators to play from behind and they managed to chip away at the Indians' lead to pull within three points with less than six minutes remaining.
But Hononegah's decision to run a delay offense midway through the fourth, which at times resulted in defensive breakdowns by the Gators for easy baskets, helped the Indians hold off South for a 63-57 win.
"We knew exactly what we had to do, we knew they were a good 3-point shooting team," senior guard Rachel Rasmussen said. "We just didn't execute in the first quarter and that's what killed us. We've got to work on that. A lot of times last year we didn't come out strong in the first quarter."
The Gators' inability to properly close out against Hononegah's shooters posed problems throughout the game. The open looks helped the Indians build a 12-point lead in the first quarter and resulted in two costly 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as South tried to pull off the comeback.
After the offense stalled for most of the first half, South (3-1) scored nearly 40 points in the second half. Senior forward Sara Mickow finished with a team-high 17 points while Rasmussen and junior forward Carly Nolan each added 10 points.
"I feel like we got ourselves level headed and realized that it's going to take a lot to come back and we just needed to fight with all of our heart," Mickow said. "I think in the end we really did that. We really tried to push through. That first quarter just killed us."
South managed to pull within six points, 45-39, late in the third quarter, but by the time the fourth started, Hononegah had built its lead back to 11 points. The Gators responded with an 8-0 run to open the fourth to trail 50-47, however they weren't able to get any closer.
"We were giving up too many offensive rebounds to them," McCaughn said. "We were not dominating the boards like we normally can. And they came out on fire early. In the second half we did a bit better. [Hononegah] hit key shots when they came up."