No one expected Crystal Lake South to be leading the Fox Valley conference in February. The Gators weren’t a preseason favorite and were totally overlooked in the preseason.
Turns out their terrific season isn’t a result of an unknown senior turning into a monster scorer or a young player stepping up and leading the varsity. According to senior Matt Reall, who made the game-winning free throws in Crystal Lake South’s 49-47 win against visiting Dundee-Crown on Saturday, it is primarily down to a mindset.
“We are really positive with each other and I think that is big,” Reall said. “Even when we were down today we were all positive with each other, saying we could get back in it. The coaches have been like that too. It’s changed our overall team growth.”
Reall had 11 points and four rebounds and junior Tyler Miller added 14 points and two rebounds for the Gators (19-6, 10-3 Fox Valley).
“Obviously the conference is a little more open this year,” Reall said. “I hate to draw an analogy to the NBA but it is like when LeBron leaves the East. You had the whole Jacobs team that was insane last year graduate a bunch of seniors. So it was kind of wide open and there for the taking.”
Dundee-Crown (17-7, 8-5) led by 11 late in the third quarter. Miller hit a three-pointer to close the third and then the big momentum swing came when the Chargers picked up a technical foul early in the fourth.
It resulted in a five-point swing and Crystal Lake South played like a different team from then on.
“It totally changed everything,” Reall said. “We were down. I wasn’t having a great game, we weren’t shooting very well overall and then all of a sudden we get those four shots at the line. It was a game-changer.”
The lead swung back and forth after the technical. Miller’s three-pointer in the corner with two minutes left put Crystal Lake South ahead 47-45.
“That’s a play we run,” Miller said. “ I shoot pretty well from the corner. I wasn’t shooting well today but when I caught it it felt good. That was huge for us.”
The Chargers had a chance to tie or win it at the end but senior Damarion Butler couldn’t get his layup to fall at the buzzer.
“Credit to our guys, they never gave up down eight and ten late they just kept fighting,” Gators coach Matt LePage said. “Our bench was outstanding with the energy and what they brought to the table.”
Junior Damir Glamoc scored five points off the bench and senior Patrick Fischer had a team-high seven rebounds.
“Fischer is just a hustle guy, he’s incredible,” LePage said. “He’s great at his role. We have a lot of those guys. He and [senior Ryan Lawson] are just fighters. They don’t score a lot but they get it done where it really matters.
Brad Stec, a 6-6 senior, led Dundee-Crown with 13 points and 13 rebounds and Jack Michalski added eight points.
“I don’t think anyone talked about us in the preseason,” LePage said. “That’s a credit to these guys. They just worked so hard. It’s such a fun group to coach.”
The final minute of Dundee-Crown at Crystal Lake South https://t.co/nGxxmZUfDA
— Michael O'Brien (@michaelsobrien) February 9, 2019