Created:Saturday, December 8, 2012 11:49 p.m.CDT
Updated:Sunday, December 9, 2012 12:01 a.m.CDT
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Gators' defense stymies Tigers

Crystal Lake Central's Paige Celestin-Dowell (right) and Crystal Lake South's Lauren Del Vecchio fight for a loose ball during the second quarter Saturday in Crystal Lake. South defeated the Tigers, 43-33. (Josh Peckler - jpeckler@shawmedia.com)

CRYSTAL LAKE – Avoiding a letdown after a big win weighed on the minds of the Crystal Lake South girls basketball team.

Less than 24 hours after an emotional win and a physical game game against Cary-Grove, the Gators came out a little sloppy and unfocused Saturday against rival Crystal Lake Central.

But South’s 2-3 zone defense caught the Tigers off guard, forcing Central to make costly miscues. The Gators’ defensive effort helped them take a nine-point lead into the half, and they never trailed in a 43-33 Fox Valley Conference crossover win.

“I thought it was very important to come out strong and make sure we didn’t let the win last night get to our heads and still play our game tonight,” senior guard Carina Madoni said. “It’s really important to distribute the ball and get everyone involved in the game so we don’t have only one threat.”

Junior forward Sara Mickow again shouldered the scoring load for South (7-3), finishing with a game-high 19 points. Mickow capitalized on her five offensive rebounds and converted at the free-throw line (7 for 8). It wasn’t a one-woman show, however. Madoni and forward Lauren Del Vecchio added seven points each, and guard Rachel Rasmussen knocked down a pair of threes.

“We really try to run an offense where anybody can get the ball and get the ball in any positions,” Gators coach Kyle McCaughn said. “Tonight we looked for it a little more from different positions.”

Turnovers troubled both teams. The Gators committed 27 turnovers, and the Tigers (6-3) had 20, which disrupted the offensive flow at times, particularly during the first half. With limited offensive chances, Central was held to four points in the second quarter. It put the Tigers in a whole from which they couldn’t recover.

“We really need to start working on getting off to a good start and focus and settle ourselves down, and I think that’s what happened in the second half,” Mickow said.

Kelsey Schmitt and Shannon Ellman led Central with eight points each. South outscored Central by only one point in the second half.

“When we got the ball in the middle, we did good things with it,” Tigers coach Paul Lichtenheld said. “Some of the turnovers were again, transitioning to the new offense. We’ve added a couple things and we tried to focus on things we haven’t done much.”

Saturday’s game was part of a day-long Hoops for Heroes event to raise money for military families. Each player will shoot 50 free throws at practice Wednesday with donations being taken.