CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake South found an occupant for the top spot on its list of improbable comeback victories.
The Gators scored a combined two points in the first and third quarters. They trailed by eight points with 2 minutes remaining, and leading scorer Sara Mickow had scored seven points, but did not have a field goal.
Yet somehow, South found a way. Mickow closed strong with seven points in the final 50 seconds, and the Gators, who led for 17 seconds the entire game, won, 38-34, in their Fox Valley Conference Valley Division girls basketball game Friday.
“It shows we don’t give up,” said Mickow, who finished with a game-high 14 points. “We fight. We go in little slumps, but then we pull ourselves back up.”
South forward Chanel Fanter tipped a ball away from Prairie Ridge point guard Bri Fenton late in the game, and Mickow scooped up the ball and drove for the go-ahead layup with 17 seconds remaining.
An intentional foul was called and Mickow added a free throw.
South (13-4 overall, 2-1 FVC Valley) trailed Prairie Ridge (10-6, 1-3) going into the fourth quarter, 31-18. The Gators scrambled to get back into the game with man-to-man pressure defense, something they are not accustomed to playing.
“We don’t practice it, and it’s outside their comfort zone, but they responded,” Gators coach Kyle McCaughn said. “It worked. We got lucky and got some deflected balls. That defense really turned it around.”
Still, the Gators faced a 34-26 deficit with 2 minutes remaining, right after Mickow was assessed a technical foul. She had three chances for putback baskets and thought she had been fouled in the scramble for rebounds. Mickow was 0 for 7 at that point and did not miss another field goal.
“It did fire me up,” the 5-foot-11 junior forward said. “It fired everyone up. We wanted to show that wasn’t going to finish us off.”
Stephanie Oros hit a deep 3-pointer that cut the lead to 34-29.
“I knew we had to shoot, I was open and I took it,” Oros said. “It was crazy. It was just us being aggressive [in the fourth quarter]. We all wanted the ball and got on the floor for it. We were all craving that win.”
Mickow scored on a rebound basket with 50 seconds to go, then added a layup with 37 seconds left, cutting the lead to 34-33. On the next possession, Fanter got the tip to Mickow, whose layup gave South its first lead of the game. Lauren Del Vecchio scored on a rebound basket with 10 seconds remaining.
“Sara has that ability, that edge, that she can do a lot of special things that not everyone can do,” McCaughn said.
The Wolves, who saw South overcome a big lead in their gym last year for a victory, took a bitter loss after playing well for three quarters.
“We wasted a lot of good defense by committing fouls,” Prairie Ridge coach Rob Baker said. “We looked good at times executing what we wanted to do. [South] did the same thing last year here, they’re a tough team to knock out. You have to keep your composure the whole time. We’re just not finding ways to finish in big games.”