WAUCONDA – On paper, Woodstock’s nonconference road matchup against Wauconda on Wednesday night was a battle between two winless teams.
What ensued down the stretch on the court, however, wound up being something far different.
Blue Streaks’ senior forward Michael Gardner’s 15-foot jumper from near the free-throw line with 13 seconds left – while multiple hands were in his face – capped a frantic late fourth-quarter rally, and was the exclamation mark on Woodstock’s thrilling 68-66 comeback victory.
Gardner, who scored 12 points off the bench, modestly deflected praise sent his way outside the locker room afterward.
“We have so many guys on our team that are good shooters, so [Wauconda] had to stretch its defense out on that final play,” Gardner said. “They couldn’t just key on one guy. When I got the basketball, I saw a brief lane open up near the top of the key, and I took advantage of it.”
Woodstock coach Al Baker was glad the ball was in Gardner’s hands.
“Michael is our leading returning scorer from last season’s team,” Baker said. “So he’s earned the right to take that shot if he feels it’s there, which he obviously did.”
Gardner also swished a corner 3-pointer near his own bench three possessions earlier that cut Wauconda’s lead, which was as big as nine midway through the fourth quarter, to two. The 3-ball was a huge key to the Streaks’ rally.
Woodstock (1-3) shot 38.7 percent (12 for 31) from 3-point range, including 4 for 7 from beyond the arc in the game’s final eight minutes. In total, the Streaks were 26 of 54 from the field, meaning 57.4 percent of their shot attempts were 3s.
“3s are who we are,” Baker said. “They’re a huge part of our game. In our first four games, we’ve made at least 10 3s in each of them.”
As good as the Streaks were shooting, Wauconda was hotter. The Bulldogs shot 51.9 percent from the field (27 for 52) and 53.8 percent (7 for 13) from 3-point range. They also outrebounded Woodstock, 30-20, but both teams pulled down 10 offensive boards.
Wauconda’s 20 turnovers, compared with Woodstock’s 15, gave the Streaks the few extra possessions they needed.
Junior Andrew Adams had a season-high 20 points for Woodstock, to go along with five boards and four assists. Tyler Peake (11 points) made all five of his shot attempts, while Carl Anderson Jr. clinched the win with a steal as time expired.
“Coach put me in the game off the bench specifically on that final possession as a defensive sub, and I’m glad he did,” Anderson Jr. said. “We knew the ball was going to one of their guards (Connor Brannick or Jimmy Ott). “When [Ott] got the ball, I just tried to make sure he had nowhere to go so he couldn’t get a final shot off.”
Wauconda was led by sophomore Donovan Carter, who had a game-high 21 points, and made his final eight shots. Brannick had 20 points.