ALGONQUIN – The fact that Crystal Lake Central point guard Brad Knoeppel had zero points and three turnovers at halftime was immaterial.
The Tigers’ 5-foot-9 senior had ample time in which to inflict some damage on Lakes in the Jacobs Holiday Classic semifinals at the Eagles’ Nest. After a pep talk from Central coach Rich Czeslawski, Knoeppel made his final six shots to spark the Tigers to a 66-58 victory Friday and into today’s 7:30 p.m. championship game against Crystal Lake South.
“I found my shot, and after I made the first one, I was fortunate to keep hitting shots,” said Knoeppel, who finished with 13 points. “I haven’t shot like that for a while.”
Central (11-1) was behind 35-31 early in the second half when Corban Murphy hit a driving layup and Jake Vanscoyoc nailed a 3-pointer for a 36-35 lead. Lakes (12-4) tied the score twice, but never led the rest of the way.
“Brad really picked it up for us,” Czeslawski said. “He was sitting on the bench at halftime and I told him we needed a big half from him, one way or another.”
Knoeppel said that was what he needed, although center Kyle Fleck said something else incited Knoeppel.
“He thought he got fouled pretty hard on one play and didn’t get a call,” Fleck said. “He was mad. If you light a match under him like that, he goes off.”
Murphy led Central with 21 points, Vanscoyoc added 13 and David Panicko had 11. Fleck made it rough for Lakes underneath with 10 rebounds and six blocked shots.
“My offensive game hasn’t been that great, so I wanted to do what I could and help in some way,” Fleck said.
Lakes guards Andrew Spencer (15 points) and Direll Clark (14) led the way. Clark’s short jumper tied the score at 53 with 5:00 remaining, but Murphy scored 10 points in the fourth quarter around Knoeppel’s 3 to keep the lead safe.
“That’s what we needed coming here, to play good teams like this,” Eagles coach Chris Snyder said. “We can learn from this game. No. 15 (Knoeppel) hit some big shots. We defended him well, had a hand in his face and he still knocked them down. Then, we kind of wore down at the end.”
Central defeated South, 59-47,on Dec. 8 in a Fox Valley Conference crossover game.