CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake South would have liked to hit a few more free throws to make things a little less dramatic at the end against Dundee-Crown.
But the Gators took heart in two things they did well, sharing the ball and defending, which helped them get past D-C, 61-58, in their Fox Valley Conference boys basketball game Wednesday night.
South (3-2, 1-0 FVC) forced seven turnovers in the fourth quarter, including a crucial one with 10 seconds remaining and the Chargers (3-1, 0-1) trailing by two.
Gators guard Arnav Jain was fouled after the inbound pass and made 1 of 2 free throws. D-C rebounded and called timeout to set up its last-second play. South was 5 of 10 at the line in the fourth quarter.
Jason Huber passed to guard Gabe Rivera, who raced down and fired a 3-pointer that bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“We tried to ramp up our energy and be poised at the same time,” said Gators forward Isaiah Kirkeeng, who scored a game-high 24 points. “We put a real emphasis before the game on the defensive end, that’s how we were going to win the game.”
Kirkeeng hit his third 3 of the game with 1:20 remaining for a 59-58 lead. South made 1 of 3 free throws in its next two possessions, but did not allow D-C to score.
“Crystal Lake South played really well,” Chargers coach Lance Huber said. “We didn’t handle the last five or six possessions very well, but they probably had something to do with that. They were really the aggressor all night. Kudos to them.”
The game was tight all the way, with South’s seven-point lead early in the third quarter as the largest margin. Kirkeeng scored 15 in the first half to keep the Gators in front, then Zach Peltz hit three 3s in the third.
Sophomore Zach Randl also hit three 3s in the third to keep the Chargers close.
D-C grabbed a 56-52 lead on Zach Ryza’s tip-in basket with 2:55 remaining, but Peltz hit two free throws and Cooper LePage drove hard for a basket to tie. Kirkeeng’s 3 then put the Gators ahead for good.
“It was just everyone going hard, the student section giving us energy, pumping us up,” Peltz said. “Isaiah hit some clutch shots out there. He gives the team so much energy and keeps us going.”
Peltz finished with 18 points and four 3s, hitting 6 of 6 from the field. Brady Schroeder added 10 points. South has 18 assists for the game, with LePage dishing out six and Kirkeeng with four.
“We had a lot of guys touching the ball, sharing it,” Gators coach Matt LePage said. “We shared the ball just enough. In the fourth quarter we got after it on the ball, forced some turnovers and got extra possessions.”
Ryza led D-C with 18 points, Randl scored 11 and Rivera added 10. Kennon Cook scored seven points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds, 12 in the second half.
“We got a really good shot (at the end),” Huber said. “I thought it was in. When you get down in that situation, we were lucky (Jain) missed a free throw, he’s a really good shooter, and we got a good look out of it. That’s all you can ask for.”