CARPENTERSVILLE – Gabe Rivera knew Dundee-Crown’s defense needed to make something happen late in the game, trailing Cary-Grove by a point, and figured he might as well be the one to do so.
The Chargers guard was checking C-G’s Mike Clarke as the clocked ticked under the 50-second mark when he went for a steal. Rivera poked the ball away with his left hand, ran around Clarke and headed for the other basket.
The play set off a frenzied finish, with Rivera making one free throw, Kennon Cook corraling a rebound and taking a backdoor feed from Rivera for a layup.
The Chargers’ Jason Huber added two free throws with 0.5 remaining for a 44-40 Fox Valley Conference boys basketball victory Wednesday night.
“We needed the ball back, and I tried to get the steal, and I got it,” Rivera said. “Defense wins games. We needed that ball. We had to get a stop on defense. That’s what we did.”
The Chargers (11-4, 6-2 FVC) finished the game with a 10-0 run, which followed a 13-0 run from the Trojans (7-10, 2-5).
Rivera made the first of two free throws with 46 seconds to go, then Cook grabbed the last of his game-high 14 rebounds and kicked the ball outside.
“We were going to run action to get that last score, but we were able to get the bucket early,” Cook said. “I just went off instinct. Me and (Rivera) have been playing together forever. It was natural instinct, I saw him playing up and went backdoor. Layup.”
C-G had a final shot to tie, but Clarke’s shot from the baseline missed, D-C rebounded and Huber was fouled.
“I saw a fortunate bounce for the Chargers,” D-C coach Lance Huber said. “(Rivera) was very aggressive defensively, we got a break. That’s how it goes. Then we got a big offensive rebound there.”
For C-G, it was a theme all too familiar. The Trojans led, 40-34, with 4:37 remaining and did not score again. C-G coach Adam McCloud was unhappy, thinking that Clarke was fouled by Rivera on the crucial play.
“Our guys have to be mentally tougher, not dribbling into traps at the end, a free-throw box-out and we have the ball with 30 seconds left for the last shot,” McCloud said. “I don’t know what the answer is. We find a way to compete with everybody we step on the floor with, but we haven’t closed for a long time.
“Dundee-Crown’s a good team, but we had the game won. We just didn’t make enough plays at the end and left it in the officials’ hands, and that was our mistake.”
D-C’s Hunter Guyon made a pair of free throws with 4:16 left to make it 40-36. Jason Huber nailed a 3-pointer from the left corner with 2:51 remaining to cut the lead to one.
C-G got the ball with 1:40 remaining and used three timeouts as D-C’s defense forced the Trojans into tough spots.
“Defensively we played better in the second half, we turned it up a notch and were a little bit better with our assignments,” Lance Huber said. “They only scored 15 in second half. We were solid there.”
Dundee-Crown 44, Cary-Grove 40
Clarke 4 3-3 11, Mau 2 2-2 6, Bauer 2 0-0 4, Slimko 2 2-2 6, Hornok 1 0-2 3, Ochwat 4 0-0 10, Zielinski 0 0-0 0, Jordan 0 0-0 0. Totals: 15 7-9 40.
Huber 3 2-2 10, Rivera 1 1-2 3, Ryza 4 0-0 8, Cook 2 5-9 9, Randl 1 0-0 3, Guyon 0 2-2 2, Schultz 2 0-0 6, Di Silvio 1 0-0 3, Jackson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 10-15 44.
Cary-Grove 11 14 7 8 – 40
Dundee-Crown 10 11 13 10 – 44
3-point goals: Cary-Grove 3 (Ochwat 2, Hornok), Dundee-Crown 5 (Huber 2, Schultz 2, Di Silvio). Total fouls: Cary-Grove 16, Dundee-Crown 11.