HUNTLEY – Crystal Lake Central center Alex Timmerman read the play perfectly and jumped into the passing lane, deflecting the ball to teammate Adam Wittenberg.
Wittenberg grabbed the ball and tossed it back to Timmerman in the frontcourt, who then hit Evan Cassell, who found C.J. Lerum for an open layup and a five-point lead.
Central was poised for a Fox Valley Conference road victory with 50 seconds remaining, although nothing has been easy for the Tigers regarding fourth quarters.
Neither was this one.
“Huntley did everything they needed to do to win that game,” Tigers coach Rich Czeslawski said. “And we, uh, tried to let a close one get away from us.”
Wittenberg, who had made all five of his free-throw attempts, missed a 1-and-1 with 17 seconds remaining, but Central defended well enough to force a Huntley timeout. Then, it defended well enough for the last 5.5 seconds, and when Chris Costantino’s 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer, the Tigers raised their arms in joy – and some relief – with a 46-45 boys basketball win Friday night.
“It’s really nice, we’ve been working hard in practice all year and we’ve been really close all year,” said Timmerman, who led all players with 15 points and 10 rebounds. “So it’s really nice to get a close game. Hopefully there’ll be more.”
Central (6-13 overall, 2-7 FVC) has been in a lot of games in the fourth quarter and usually come up short.
“We gave up a ton of offensive rebounds, we missed a lot of easy passes, a lot of easy box-outs, a lot of easy shots,” Czeslawski said. “Those are things that keep you from winning those games, and somehow we got lucky that Huntley’s shot didn’t fall at the end.”
Lerum, a sophomore who has assumed a larger role with senior Adam Pump lost to a knee injury, scored all 13 of his points in the second half, hitting three 3-pointers. Lerum was 0 of 5 in the first half, but 5 of 8 in the second.
“My teammates really pushed me and said, ‘Just keep shooting,’ because they know the kind of shooter I am,” Lerum said. “You could feel it when the rhythm starts happening. It’s really nice.”
Central did not trail after Wittenberg opened the fourth with a 3. Timmerman’s steal in the last minute and the ensuing layup by Lerum made it 46-41, but Huntley (5-14, 3-6) was not done.
Chris Costantino, who led the Raiders with nine points, hit a pair of free throws with 42 seconds remaining. Matt Seng hit two with 28 seconds to go.
Huntley then got the rebound after Wittenberg’s free-throw miss and had trouble getting into its offense. Raiders coach Will Benson called timeout.
“We tried to get it so we could get up there and they couldn’t set up their defense, and we weren’t getting anything,” Benson said. “We still had 5.5 (seconds), which was fine. We did not shoot the ball well all game. We battled hard enough to win; we defended well enough to win; we just didn’t close the deal at the end. We just have to make a couple shots here and there.”
Crystal Lake South, sr., G
Freund scored four points and came up with one of the game’s biggest rebounds late to help the Tigers hold off Huntley. The Red Raiders had three shots, and Freund, the shortest Tiger at 5-foot-8, eventually ended that possession by grabbing a rebound in the crowd.
10: Huntley players who cracked the scoring column out of 11 Red Raiders who played.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
With senior guard Adam Pump sidelined with a knee injury, and C.J. Lerum now getting the bulk of his minutes, Central often had three sophomores on the floor – Lerum, center Alex Timmerman and forward Evan Cassell.
Crystal Lake Central 46, Huntley 45
CL CENTRAL (46)
Freund 2 0-0 4, Wittenberg 2 5-6 10, Timmerman 5 5-8 15, Cassell 1 0-0 2, Vesely 0 0-0 0, Lerum 5 0-0 13, Douros 0 0-0 0, Keenan 0 0-0 0, Haviland 1 0-0 2. Totals: 16 10-14 46.
Parks 0 2-2 2, Seng 2 4-5 8, Bigden 2 4-6 8, Mahnke 0 0-0 0, Costatino 3 2-2 9, Loveisky 0 1-2 1, Knipp 2 0-0 4, Rumachik 1 0-0 2, Browne 2 0-0 6, Castillo 0 1-2 1, Fulcer 2 0-1 4. Totals: 14 14-20 45.
CL Central 6 16 12 12 – 46
Huntley 7 19 10 9 – 45
3-point goals: CL Central 4 (Lerum 3, Wittenberg), Huntley 3 (Browne 2, Costatino). Total fouls: CL Central 20, Huntley 18. Technical fouls: Huntley coach Benson.