CRYSTAL LAKE – The final moments of the Prairie Ridge girls basketball team's 53-49 Fox Valley Conference upset win over rival Crystal Lake Central on Saturday were nerve-wracking.
The Wolves (10-12, 3-8 FVC) trailed for the first 29-plus minutes and didn't have a field goal for the first five-plus minutes of the fourth quarter.
That trend came to an abrupt halt when Wolves' forward Alana Mocchi sank a layup, got fouled – then made the ensuing free throw with 2:43 left in the fourth quarter – to give Prairie Ridge its first lead of the afternoon, 43-41.
Only 30 seconds later, after the Tigers (14-6, 6-4) trimmed the lead to one on a Nora Ryan free throw, Prairie Ridge freshman Karsen Karlblom drained a corner 3-pointer, giving the Wolves a four-point cushion. Central responded with a 5-0 run for a one-point advantage.
That's when Karlblom (game-high 17 points) came up huge in the clutch again. She buried another 3 with 1:13 remaining, her fifth of the game, giving the Wolves the lead for good, 49-47. Karlblom also had eight rebounds, five of them coming on the offensive glass.
"This win gives us a huge boost of confidence," Karlblom said. "We'd only won a pair of conference games before this one. Beating such a good team on the road provides some much-needed energy headed into our upcoming games."
Karly Statter's two free throws with 35.2 seconds to play pushed the Wolves' lead to 51-47. Prairie Ridge made all nine of its free throws in the fourth quarter, after going only 6 of 14 from the foul line in the second and third quarters.
"We were just more aggressive in the second half, especially when the game was on the line," said guard Maddy Ljunggren, who scored 11 points. "We weren't afraid to attack the basket all of a sudden, and that's also why we got some good looks from beyond the arc."
Statter had 10 points for the Wolves.
"This was the momentum we needed … the momentum we'd been waiting for all season," Statter said.
The Wolves had a brief, but boisterous celebration in a nearby hallway after the final horn sounded. Meanwhile, in the Central locker room, Tigers coach Derek Crabill preached positivity to his players.
"Things were pretty calm for us postgame, actually," Crabill said. "Yeah, this one stings a bit. But I still have plenty of confidence in these girls. Give Prairie Ridge credit. They ran a 2-1-2 half-court zone we'd never seen before, and that sped us up a bit in the second half and caused some uncharacteristic turnovers."
Maddie Haslow (14 points, 10 rebounds) led the Tigers, while Cori Hamill finished with 11 points, six rebounds and six steals.
"Everyone talks about Maddie's scoring, but she does so many other little things well,” Crabill said. “And Cori is one of those freak-of-nature athletes that only comes along every once in a blue moon. And credit to Lily Penza today. She busted her tail out there. We just got to collectively learn from this loss, and not dwell on it. We'll be OK.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Karsen Karlblom, Prairie Ridge, fr., SG
Karlblom poured in a game-high 17 points with eight rebounds.
9: Prairie Ridge made all nine free throws in the fourth quarter
AND ANOTHER THING …
Guard Sam Gablenz had four points, four steals, four assists and five rebounds for the Wolves.
Prairie Ridge 53, Crystal Lake Central 49
Prairie Ridge 8 15 13 17 – 53
Crystal Lake Central 17 11 9 12 – 49
Prairie Ridge (53): Karlblom 5 2-2 17, Ljunggren 2 5-5 11, Statter 2 6-11 10, Mocchi 1 4-5 6, Fisher 2 1-1 5, Gablenz 2 0-2 4, Kay 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 18-26 53.
Crystal Lake Central (49): Haslow 4 4-5 14, Hamill 3 3-4 11, Geske 2 2-2 6, Penza 3 0-0 6, Wozniak 2 0-0 5, Fleming 1 0-0 2, Lichte 1 0-0 2, Keller 1 0-0 2, Ryan 0 1-4 1, Douros 0 0-0 0. Totals: 17 10-15 49.
3-point goals: Prairie Ridge 7 (Karlblom 5, Ljunggren 2), Crystal Lake Central 5 (Hamill 2, Haslow 2, Wozniak). Team fouls: Crystal Lake Central 20, Prairie Ridge 14.