WOODSTOCK – A 15-point fourth-quarter lead quickly had shriveled to one point Friday for the Woodstock Blue Streaks.
Woodstock coach Al Baker called a timeout with two minutes remaining.
“When we called that timeout, I really just yelled at them for 30 seconds about rebounding the ball,” Baker said with a chuckle. “And then I think we got every rebound after that.”
Not to mention the victory.
Woodstock held off a late rally by Cary-Grove for a 52-48 win in the Fox Valley Conference crossover third-place matchup at the James M. Shipley Memorial Gymnasium. The Blue Streaks (13-14, 7-5 FVC Fox) atoned for an early-season loss to the Trojans (15-12, 7-5 FVC Valley) and increased their winning streak to four games. They were the only Fox Division team to win Friday.
“We’re getting to the point where we can finish out games,” said Blue Streaks center Nick Kubiak, who scored 10 points off of the bench. “At the beginning of the year, we’d be up by 10 in the last couple minutes and we wouldn’t be able to close out. But we’re definitely able to close out now.”
The transformation has happened in large part because of pesky defense, timely shooting from the perimeter by Marcus Ammirati (12 points), and a reliable inside game from Kubiak, Damian Stoneking (nine points) and Mason Sutter (nine points), who all stand 6-foot-5 or taller.
All three of Woodstock’s big men benefited from key assists from Mitch Kohley (six points), who switched to point guard during the season and has blossomed as a passer.
After C-G sliced a 42-27 lead and pulled within 46-45, Kohley found Sutter open underneath the basket to push the Blue Streaks’ lead back to three points.
Woodstock held on in front of a noisy crowd, sealing the victory with rebounds and free throws down the stretch.
“We have confidence in our abilities,” Kohley said. “We’ve been in tough, close games before. We knew we just had to play well and not turn it over, and we’d be all right.”
Baker said Kohley had played especially well at point guard in the past few games.
“He started the season playing off the ball for us, and then we moved him to the point,” Baker said. “It’s not exactly a natural position for him, but he’s worked really hard at it. In the last couple of games, we’ve played two intense, pressure teams, and his ball handling and composure has been a big part of the reason we’ve won those games.”
C-G coach Ralph Schuetzle said a dismal second quarter, in which the Trojans scored only three points, proved to be the difference. He said Woodstock deserved to win.
Tyler Szydlo (13 points), Jason Gregoire (11 points) and Nick Barr (10 points) led C-G in scoring.
“We just had a really poor second quarter,” Schuetzle said. “We did not play intelligent basketball. We were unsure of ourselves and really didn’t know how to attack. …
“We’ve been like that for three or four games in a row. It’s one bad quarter and now you’re fighting 10 or 12 down, and you come back but just fall a little short.”