CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central’s stingy defense has been a giant source of frustration for opposing teams throughout the season.
On Friday, it was Prairie Ridge playing that role.
After going into the half tied at 19, the Wolves held the Tigers to one third-quarter field goal – a shot at the buzzer – and pulled away for a 42-33 Fox Valley Conference victory over their crosstown rivals at Central’s Fieldhouse.
Prairie Ridge (14-3, 4-2 FVC) earned its seventh straight win while giving Central (13-6, 5-1) its first FVC loss and only second loss in its past 15 games. Central’s other loss also came against Prairie Ridge, a 39-29 loss at McHenry’s Northern Illinois Holiday Classic semifinals on Dec. 20.
“I told [Crystal Lake Central coach Derek] Crabill that he’s such a pain to plan for. His team is tough,” Wolves coach Tim Taege said. “They’re really good at what they do. No matter who is on that roster, they’re going to execute that pressure.
“I think that’s what I’m most proud of from my group. They executed without getting overly nervous when the pressure was on. We haven’t had a reason in the past to have that swagger or that confidence but we do now. I saw that today.”
Prairie Ridge outscored Central, 14-4, in the third. Central shot only 1 of 12 in the third and was 13 of 40 overall. The Wolves, meanwhile, shot 6 of 13 in the third and got nine points from senior shooting guard Karsen Karlblom.
Elani Nanos started the second half with a steal and assisted Karlblom for a bucket, followed by a free throw and field goal from Kelly Gende to make it 24-19. After two free throws from the Tigers’ Courtney Schober, Karlblom added a 3-pointer and layup, followed by buckets from Nanos and Karlblom.
Prairie Ridge led, 33-23, after three and extended it to 36-23 to start the fourth after a three-point play by Karlblom.
Karlblom said the team focused on its transition offense in the second half. The Wolves caused 30 turnovers – with four of their six buckets in the third quarter coming directly off a steal or turnover.
“We threw the ball down the court as quick as we could,” said Karlblom, who had a game-high 20 points and knocked down three 3s. “They’re a very talented team. It was very intense but I think we can beat any team we play. Every day we’re getting better and better. Our energy was so good today. We have so much potential.”
Gende had 11 points and six rebounds, Nanos had five points and five assists and Grace Koeppen added six points for Prairie Ridge.
Gende said the Wolves played with plenty of focus.
“We stayed focused the whole time and we locked down on defense,” Gende said. “That was big for us ... to stay mentally in the game. That’s what we’ve struggled with in the past. When we deal with adversity, we kind of lock up. But we stayed in it and we wanted it more.”
Central was led by Katie Hamill with 18 points, 12 rebounds and six steals. Paige Keller (seven rebounds), Courtney Schober and Taja Bryan each added four points.
Crabill thought the difference in Friday’s game was the third-quarter run by Prairie Ridge. Up until that point, the Tigers were able to keep up with their crosstown rivals.
“Tonight was better than when we played them at McHenry,” Crabill said. “I thought defensively, we did a pretty good job of doing what we wanted to do. Offensively, we were up and down a bit, but I thought our kids played hard.
“As long as we continue to get better every game in our process, we’ll be playing good ball at the end of the year, and that’s really what it’s about.”