CRYSTAL LAKE – Cary-Grove girls basketball coach Rod Saffert didn’t need a lengthy halftime speech to get his point across with the Trojans clinging to a three-point lead.
Get the ball to C-G’s scorers, seniors Joslyn Nicholson and Olivia Jakubicek, and lock down on the defensive end against Prairie Ridge. The Trojans took the message to heart.
The Wolves had no answer for Nicholson’s deadly turnaround jumpers or Jakubicek’s presence inside during the second half. The duo combined for 33 points and scored all 18 of the Trojans’ third quarter points en route to a 47-29 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win at Prairie Ridge.
“I think we knew that we were getting our looks and in order for our team to succeed we need to get our looks,” Jakubicek said. “If our opportunities aren’t there, we can create opportunities for our teammates. We knew that we had to step it up.”
C-G (5-3, 1-0 FVC Valley) dominated the second half as soon as play began.
Getting the basketball to start the third, the Trojans scored within the first three seconds off a nifty backdoor lob to Nicholson for an open lay-up.
That triggered a 10-0 run, their second of the game, to give the Trojans a 34-21 lead.
“Olivia and I have been teammates for so long and it’s just really important for us and to the team [to step up] because we’re trying to show people that we are still Cary-Grove,” Nicholson said.
Prairie Ridge (6-2, 0-1) was held to three points in the third, its only points coming on a free throw with 2:52 left and Kelsey Bear’s buzzer-beating layup to end the quarter. The 18-point deficit was too much for the Wolves to overcome.
“Everybody understands their role,” Saffert said. “Second half in particular they really carried it well. ... In the second half they got some shots, but they had more one and dones. We got more rebounds that second half.”
C-G kept its win streak alive against the Wolves, denying them their first victory in 13 years against their conference foe. The Wolves played well in the first quarter, taking a 5-0 lead and holding a one-point advantage at the end of the quarter. But Prairie Ridge struggled to maintain its intensity and was eventually worn down by C-G’s relentless defense.
“Obviously there’s pressure for us to hold that [streak], but there’s also pressure on the other team to try to beat it,” Olivia Jakubicek said. “We just knew that we had to come and play strong and do what we knew we could do.”
The 10-0 Trojans run to open the second quarter, aided by a Kylie Smith 3-pointer and two layups by Olivia Jakubicek, put them back in control. Prairie Ridge didn’t back down, however, responding with a 9-3 run in the final 2:26 of the second quarter to trail 24-21 at halftime.
The Wolves had their opportunities to pull out a win but couldn’t convert open looks. They were held to eight points (three field goals) in the second half. Alex Neckopulos led Prairie Ridge with six points.
“We didn’t make shots,” Wolves coach Rob Baker said. “We had a lot of open shots and we had good shooters that we’re confident in shooting open shots and they didn’t knock them down. Part of that is Cary-Grove plays so hard that you’re so physically spent that when you’re trying to knock those shots down it becomes difficult.”