CRYSTAL LAKE – The Crystal Lake South boys basketball team remains in sole possession of first place in the Fox Valley Conference after its thrilling 49-47 win over Dundee-Crown on Saturday afternoon.
Down by 11 with a little more than a minute left in the third quarter, the Gators (19-6, 10-3 FVC) staged a furious fourth-quarter rally to remain in control of their own destiny in the FVC title race.
Chargers senior forward Brad Stec's one-hand dunk on a fast break with 1:02 left in the third gave D-C its largest lead of the game, at 39-28.
That's when the tables completely turned.
Tyler Miller (game-high 14 points) drained a 3 in the final moments of the third to cut D-C's lead to eight. Then, early in the fourth, senior point guard Ben Geske was fouled driving to the basket. After the play, the Chargers also were assessed a technical foul.
Geske made three of the four ensuing free throws, which were followed by baskets from Miller and Geske on South's next two possessions. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, the Gators trailed by one, 39-38, with 5:54 left in the game.
"We were battling ourselves [up to that point]," South coach Matt LePage said. "Foul trouble, [bad] shot selection, and we weren't setting our defense."
That's when LePage made a key decision to switch to a half-court diamond press defense, which sped up the game and seemed to light a fire under his players.
"Switching to the diamond helped us force a lot of loose balls and turnovers down the stretch," Geske said. "It also seemed to make Dundee-Crown rush a lot of its passes."
The Gators took the lead for the first time since their first possession with 4:55 left in the fourth, when Geske hit a pair of free throws. The teams traded leads four more times the rest of the way, but it was a pair of free throws by Matt Reall with 32.9 seconds left that gave the Gators the lead for good, 49-47.
Reall (11 points) later missed a pair of free throws with six seconds left, which gave the Charges one final chance. After a timeout, D-C senior guard Damarion Butler (five points, four steals, five assists) went coast to coast with the ball, but his layup to send the game to overtime fell off the front of the rim and out.
D-C shot 47.2 percent (17 for 36) from the field, compared to 33 percent (14 for 42) by South. The Chargers (16-7, 8-5) also outrebounded the Gators, 32-23, led by Stec, who pulled down a team-best 12 boards. It wasn't enough.
It was the second time the Chargers lost to the Gators this season. D-C struggled offensively down the stretch, going 2 for 8 from the floor in the final eight minutes.
"I told our guys [after the game], we had our chances," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "We've got to put the ball in the basket. We put ourselves in a position to win the game, and weren't able to make enough plays.
The Gators have three FVC games left, two at home against Crystal Lake Central and McHenry, followed by their regular-season finale at Jacobs. South has a one-game lead over three teams – Hampshire, Crystal Lake Central and Cary-Grove – in the FVC title race. Those three are all 9-4 in conference play.
STAR OF THE GAME
Crystal Lake South, sr., PG
Geske scored seven of his nine points during a pulse-pounding fourth quarter, and was 5 of 6 on free throws in the final eight minutes.
15: Free-throw tries by the Gators in the fourth quarter. They made 11 of them.
AND ANOTHER THING …
South remains in sole possession of first place in the Fox Valley Conference with three conference games remaining.
Crystal Lake South 49, Dundee-Crown 47
Dundee-Crown 12 16 11 8 – 47
Crystal Lake South 10 13 8 18 – 49
Dundee-Crown (47): Stec 6 1-2 13, Michalski 3 2-2 8, Hairston 3 1-4 7, Raby 2 0-0 6, Butler 1 2-3 5, Prusko 0 3-4 3, Huber 1 0-1 3, Hatcher 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 9-16 47.
Crystal Lake South (49): Miller 5 2-2 14, Reall 2 6-8 11, Geske 2 5-6 9, Haskin 3 0-1 7, Glamoc 2 0-1 5, Lawson 0 2-4 2, Jewson 0 1-2 1, Fischer 0 0-0 0, Gorken 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 16-24 49.
3-point field goals: Crystal Lake South 5 (Miller 2, Reall, Haskin, Glamoc), Dundee-Crown 4 (Raby 2, Butler, Huber).
Total team fouls: Crystal Lake South 18, Dundee-Crown 18.
Fouled out: None. Technical fouls: Dundee-Crown (7:29 of the 4th quarter).