JOHNSBURG – Despite all the missed shots and a huge rebounding disadvantage, Johnsburg played some inspired minutes to start the third quarter, fought out of a hole and appeared ready to push Grayslake Central to the end.
The Skyhawks could not sustain that level.
Eventually, Grayslake Central got back to pounding the boards, led by double digits most of the fourth quarter and put Johnsburg away, 61-51, in their Fox Valley Conference Fox Division game Friday night.
Johnsburg (5-15 overall, 2-4 FVC Fox) tied the score at 31-31 with 4:01 remaining in the third quarter, erasing Grayslake Central’s seven-point lead. Steve Dixon and Collin Ridout both hit 3-pointers and sophomore Tanner Kreassig hit the boards hard inside and scored off a pair of assists from Ridout.
“I just always try to play my hardest and try to spark something, hustle for every loose ball, do what I can,” said Kreassig, a 6-foot-1 forward. “I thought we were going to take over, but it didn’t go our way. We could have finished stronger.”
The Rams (10-7, 6-0) built their lead to 39-33 when Ridout, who had just gone to the bench, was assessed a technical foul for something he said that an official heard. Skyhawks coach Mike Toussaint left his point guard and second-leading scorer on the bench the rest of the game.
“It was uncalled for and he didn’t need to go back in the game,” Toussaint said. “What he did was a bad thing for the team and him not being on the floor is not a good thing for the team either. It was a discipline thing.”
Johnsburg had the ball with a chance to cut the lead to four when the technical was called. The Rams’ Malcolm Reed made both free throws and they scored on the ensuing possession for a 10-point lead.
“We didn’t stop believing [to get it tied] and we were really excited,” said Dixon, who hit three 3s and finished with 14 points. “We all worked hard together and had a lot of momentum going. We made a lot of stupid decisions on defense, fouls, and they executed well and we couldn’t match it on the other side.”
Ridout finished with a game-high 16 points and two 3s.
Grayslake Central outrebounded Johnsburg, 46-35, for the game with forward Alex Lennartz grabbing a game-high 14 rebounds. Reserve forward Michael Benko had a big game with 11 points and six rebounds.
“We focus every day in practice on box-out drills and our guards to the big men,” Lennartz said. “You have to box them out and go for the loose balls. We wanted five guys crashing the boards and I think that was pretty evident. It’s huge when you get second-chance points. It’s another possession they don’t get.”
Rams coach Brian Moe, whose team is atop the FVC Fox alone, rewarded Benko for his heady play and rebounding with more minutes.
“Every week we have a guy who actually listens to what we’re trying to get them to do offensively,” Moe said. “Michael was attacking the baseline against their [2-3] zone was what we wanted, so we’re going to leave him on the floor.”