CRYSTAL LAKE – A new coach and new offense posed no problems for the Crystal Lake Central girls basketball team during Monday’s season opener.
The Tigers weren’t sure how a motion-based offense – switching from an offense that relied heavily on set plays – would transfer from practice to games. Despite some hiccups as Central tried to get open off the ball, the Tigers, aided by six veterans, cruised to a 44-28 win against Wauconda.
“I didn’t really know what I’d see, but I think experience pays and we have a lot of it,” first-year Tigers coach Paul Lichtenheld said. “Honestly, the cliche holds, it was really a team effort tonight.”
Lichtenheld was especially pleased with the Tigers’ defensive performance against the Bulldogs. Central (1-0) held Wauconda (0-1) to eight points or less each quarter while no player scored more than six points. The Tigers also forced 14 turnovers as Central led by as many as 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“Give them a lot of credit, they put a lot of effort in and there were some positioning things that we fixed at halftime,” Lichtenheld said. “We did a great job to start the game and then strayed during the second quarter.
“We were outstanding with some of the adjustments we made. I was really thrilled with how they reacted to the coaching.”
Central jumped to a 10-2 lead in the first quarter, but Wauconda tied the score, 12-12, early in the second quarter thanks to good ball movement. However, the Tigers responded with eight straight points and never trailed again.
“I think we played really well together as a team and it boosted our confidence a little bit,” junior guard/forward Evelyn Youel said. “We were nervous coming in, doing something that we’ve never done before. We weren’t sure how it was going to go.”
Nine Tigers scored, led by senior guard Paige Celestin-Dowell with 10 points off the bench. Youel added eight points, and three players scored six points apiece.
“It sets the tone for the rest of the season,” junior forward Shannon Ellman said. “ ... We know what we can do now. This is what we can work toward every game.”