CRYSTAL LAKE – During the second half of the boys basketball season, McHenry has relied on small victories more often than the Warriors would prefer.
They’d win two quarters but drop the game. They’d get hot from the field only to go cold again. They’d shoot well consistently but turn the ball over too often. Moral wins do not feel better than what they really are: losses.
So McHenry’s 61-52 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division victory against Crystal Lake South on Friday felt a little sweeter. In nearly every facet, it may have been the Warriors’ most complete game of the new year.
“It’s easy to say we’re right there but … you keep talking about that and it becomes a broken record,” McHenry coach Tim Paddock said. “We talked the last couple days about sharing the passion, having the enthusiasm. And this was a great high school basketball game tonight.”
The Warriors (10-10 overall, 3-5 FVC Valley) were hot from the arc early. Guard Cody Freund buried a 3-pointer off a pass from guard Kyle Postal with 3 minutes left in the first quarter to put McHenry up 9-2, and sophomore guard Nick Bellich nailed a long three at the 2:30 mark and gave a spirited fist pump, indicative of the energy the Warriors maintained for the rest of the game.
McHenry guard Greg Johnson (game-high 17 points) hit a pair of 3s in the second quarter and a long jumper that extended the Warriors’ lead to 17-7 with 5:55 left. The shot erased the first mistake McHenry had made – a turnover with 6:26 left in the second quarter.
The Warriors finished the first half with just three giveaways and tallied 10 assists – a nod to their patience.
“We felt good right away,” Johnson said. “Being up early just gives you some morale through the rest of the game, and then we’re not battling back all the time.”
South (14-7, 3-5) closed the gap to 24-21, thanks in part to five points from forward Chris Mahoney (team-high 11 points), and trailed 26-21 at halftime.
Bellich hit two 3s and Freund added his second to put McHenry ahead 37-26 with 4:54 left in the third, and South never got within seven points again. Mahoney and guard Collin Wagner knocked down threes during a 10-3 run in the middle of the fourth to cut South’s deficit to 49-42, but three quick McHenry field goals nixed the rally.
“McHenry kind of has our number,” said South coach Matt LePage, whose team lost by one point in the first meeting on Jan. 10. “ … They executed and made us pay for every little mistake.”