ALGONQUIN — Crystal Lake South coach Matt LePage’s only focus in practice has been on defense since the Gators lost to Prairie Ridge – their third in four games – on Friday.
It paid off against Jacobs on Tuesday with South’s defense holding down the Golden Eagles in a 55-43 win.
“I just thought this was a big bounce-back win, a big team win for us,” South senior Cooper LePage said. “We really needed it and it was a great performance from everybody.”
South (18-7, 9-4 FVC) came out with a strong defensive intensity, running out to an 8-0 lead and not allowing Jacobs to score until there was 3:06 left in the first quarter. The Gators led 11-6 after the first quarter and stayed ahead 21-15 at the half.
The Golden Eagles remained close at 29-23 midway through the third quarter, but South ran out to a 13-2 run to end the quarter. The Gators, who were ahead throughout, never led by less than 10 in the fourth.
Gators start the game on a 6-0 run, leading with 4:00 left in the 1Q. Here’s LaPage scoring on a fast break. pic.twitter.com/OrwvCYCdrY— Michal Dwojak (@mdwojak94) February 1, 2023
Matt LePage credited Cam Miller and Zachary Peltz for taking away Jacobs’ top scorers from really getting into a groove. He was happy to see his emphasis on defense pay off Tuesday.
“When we play tough basketball, it creates offense for us,” Matt LePage aid. “Today was a good step for us moving forward. It’s not all about offense, it’s about the other side of the ball. I thought we did that today.”
Cooper LePage led all scorers with 20 points, while A.J. Demirov added 15. Brady Schroeder scored eight, and Peltz finished with six.
The Gators gave up 75, 65 and 66 points in losses to Burlington Central, Dundee-Crown and Prairie Ridge, respectively. Cooper LePage thought Tuesday was exactly what his team needed heading into the final stretch of the season.
“It’s big, especially late in the season when we went through a little dry spell,” he said. “We’re coming out of it now and I think this win will help because of our defensive performance.”
Ben Jurzak led Jacobs (13-13, 7-6) with 12 points, while Treval Howard tallied seven.
Golden Eagles coach Jimmy Roberts said his team competed sluggishly at practices leading up to Tuesday and saw that reflected in the loss.
“They just played harder than us, they played with more effort,” Roberts said. “That’s going to be a pretty bad recipe.”
The Golden Eagles get back into FVC action at D-C on Friday while the Gators host Huntley on Friday.
Cooper LePage said he hopes Tuesday’s win can be the spark the Gators need to make a deep postseason run.
“It was a big win for our final stretch of the season,” Cooper said. “We went through a little cold spell, a little losing streak, but I think this game is going to propel us to better things.”