CARPENTERSVILLE – Dundee-Crown didn't have the look or swagger of a conference leader in the first quarter against Crystal Lake Central, making its first basket with about 10 seconds left.
"Just too many turnovers on our end," Chargers coach Sarah Miller said. "But that's OK. They were aware of that. This team is a smart team, so even if we don't play like it, they know when they don't."
The second quarter was a different story for the Chargers, who scored 11 points off 10 Tigers turnovers to turn a seven-point deficit into a 42-35 Fox Valley Conference victory Wednesday.
The win sets up a showdown between D-C (22-7, 14-1 FVC) and FVC co-leader Hampshire (25-5, 14-1) in the regular-season finale at 7 p.m. Friday in Hampshire. The Whip-Purs beat Huntley, 46-35, on Wednesday.
The Chargers and Whip-Purs shared the conference championship in a four-way tie with Huntley and Cary-Grove two years ago. The winner of Friday's game will win the title outright.
Hampshire and D-C have split two games this season. Hampshire handed D-C its one FVC loss, 40-30, on Jan. 11, after the Chargers beat the Whips, 46-39, in D-C's Charger-Komaromy Classic on Dec. 28.
"We're beyond excited for this chance," senior Kendall Kieltyka said of Friday's winner-take-all title game. "It's such an exciting moment, especially because Hampshire beat us the first time, and we want some redemption. We're coming out for revenge. We're going to go at them. We know that they're a good team, and we're going to go as hard as we can."
The Chargers first had to get by a Central team looking to play spoiler. The Tigers grabbed a 9-2 lead in the first quarter, led by six points from point guard Cori Hamill. D-C's Gianine Boado connected on her team's first basket, a 3-pointer in the waning seconds of the first quarter to cut Central's lead to 9-5 after one.
D-C took its first lead with 2:59 remaining in the second quarter on a free throw from guard Katelyn Skibinski (game-high 13 points, four steals). Five of the Chargers' six field goals were off turnovers in the second.
The Chargers continued to pressure the Tigers (15-10, 7-8) after halftime, forcing 28 total turnovers.
"We knew we needed to get out of that drought," said Chargers junior Payton Schmidt, who had 12 points, two 3s and four steals. "Coming off the bench, I knew I needed to be a lift. I was just jumping on loose balls, because that's something we work on daily. Our defense drives our offense, so the intensity is what we needed."
Boado and Alyssa Crenshaw (11 rebounds) both had seven points for D-C.
Hamill scored 10 points, Nora Ryan had nine, and Maddie Haslow (eight rebounds) added seven for the Tigers.
"They pressure the ball really well, and that got us sped up," Tigers coach Derek Crabill said. "I thought the second half we did a better job of being stronger with the ball. They're a good team, but I like the way we played tonight. I thought that was the best game we've played in probably three weeks."
STAR OF THE GAME
Katelyn Skibinski, Dundee-Crown, jr., G
Skibinski led all scorers with 13 points, including 10 of D-C's 14 in the third quarter.
11: Points off turnovers for D-C in the second quarter
AND ANOTHER THING …
With D-C (22-7) and Hampshire (25-5) both winning Wednesday, the Fox Valley Conference champion will be decided when the teams meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Hampshire. Both are 14-1 in FVC play.
Dundee-Crown 42, Crystal Lake Central 35
CRYSTAL LAKE CENTRAL (35): Hamill 3 4-4 10, Fleming 1 1-2 3, Wozniak 1 0-1 2, Geske 0 2-6 2, Haslow 2 2-2 7, Ryan 3 3-7 9, Penza 0 2-4 2. Totals: 10 14-26 35.
DUNDEE-CROWN (42): Schmidt 4 2-3 12, Skibinski 5 3-7 13, Boado 2 2-2 7, Crenshaw 1 5-7 7, Deegan 1 0-0 2, Ryza 0 1-2 1. Totals: 13 13-21 42.
Crystal Lake Central 9 7 10 9 – 35
Dundee-Crown 5 14 14 9 – 42
3-point goals: Crystal Lake Central 1 (Haslow), Dundee-Crown 3 (Schmidt 2, Boado). Total fouls: Crystal Lake Central 19, Dundee-Crown 19.