Austin Rogers rallies Crystal Lake South past Crystal Lake Central

CRYSTAL LAKE – The low block on the left side of the lane is Austin Rogers’ office – it’s where the Crystal Lake South senior forward does his best work.

Rogers set up shop there in the third quarter and helped spark a pivotal run by the Gators, who finally got a little breathing room on their pesky crosstown rival Crystal Lake Central.

Rogers scored 14 of his game-high 32 points in that quarter, hitting all five field goal attempts, and undefeated South held off the winless Tigers, 77-65, in their Fox Valley Conference crossover boys basketball game Saturday at Gator Alley.

South moved to 6-0 in a game that culminated the schools’ Day of Hoops, an annual celebration where girls and boys games are played through the day on every high school level. This year, money from donations and a bake sale during the day went to benefit a local family with relatives from Washington, Ill. Three families related to the local family had their homes destroyed by the tornado.

Central (0-6) led, 41-39, before a 14-0 run from the Gators over a two-minute stretch in the third quarter.

“We weren’t making shots, we weren’t getting back on defense,” Rogers said of the first half. “Cavanagh [Murphy from Central] was making shots and they just stunned us. We finally woke up and got ready to play.”

Rogers has had one game with less than 20 points this season, that against Grant when he was called for two early fouls. He hit 10 of 13 from the field and 12 of 17 free throws for his game-high total, with most of those coming from the low left block.

“I like spinning to my left, it’s weird,” said Rogers, a 6-foot-2 right-handed shooter. “It probably catches teams off-guard because a right-handed guy likes spinning to the middle and finishing with the right.”

Rogers utilizes twists and double-pumps and fadeaways to work the other way.

“He wiggles down there, he gets that angle that’s kind of awkward and he’s just a great finisher around the basket,” Gators coach Matt LePage said.

Central coach Rich Czeslawski said defending Rogers can leave teams feeling helpless.

“We were hoping to get in front of him and get him in foul trouble,” Czeslawski said.

Murphy led the Tigers with 21 points, 15 in the first half as they were even with South, 30-30, at halftime.

“We played really well today,” Murphy said. “They’re one of the best teams in this area and we were right there with them. We just had that stretch where they sped us up.”

Czeslawski thought his young, inexperienced team made progress.

“[South] is a good, good team,” Czeslawski said. “I’ve coached some good teams the last three years, and they have all the pieces. They got size, they got shooters, they got guards, a great coach, that team is loaded. It’s hard not to be proud of our guys for battling them.”

South got 13 points from Caleb Johnson and 12 from Chris Mahoney. Central cut the lead to 66-60 with 4:10 remaining, but the Gators hit layups and free throws to put the game away.

“The third quarter’s kind of how we’ve been playing all year,” LePage said. “We just didn’t play well in the other three quarters. We made enough plays in the end, and Austin made a bunch.”