CRYSTAL LAKE – Perhaps it was the 30-second timeout Rich Czeslawski called in the middle of the first quarter when his Crystal Lake Central boys basketball team found itself trailing Hampshire on Saturday.
Maybe it was forward Kyle Fleck’s appearance shortly thereafter, or the way the Whip-Purs were abusing the boards. Something, at any rate, jarred the Tigers awake.
After a lackadaisical first quarter, Central found its track shoes and rolled over Hampshire, 65-33, at Central Fieldhouse in what was billed as a midseason progress report that could pull the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division race into clearer focus.
The Tigers’ seven-point first-quarter showing morphed into a 24-point explosion in the second, punctuated by Fleck’s 10 points off the bench. The momentum swing was enough to overshadow the Whips’ 15-5 rebounding performance in the first and proved to be all the Tigers needed to distance themselves early.
“We were standing around a lot,” said Fleck, who scored a game-high 17 points. “We had to pick up some energy. We weren’t playing with any and that hurt because I think we feed off energy as a team.”
Czeslawski noted as much during the only timeout he called all game.
“All we talked about was ‘Where is the energy?’” Czeslawski said. “It’s hard to say [what it was]. They knew this was a quality opponent. … I think we were just out of sorts. Our shot selection was not there. On defense we were letting them get over the top. I don’t know what caused it but I know we had to get it fixed.”
Central (13-1 overall, 2-0 FVC Fox) trailed 13-7 to start the second quarter and used a 14-2 run to go up 21-15 with 3:56 left in the first half. Fleck scored the go-ahead on a floater at the 5:15 mark and senior guard Corbin Murphy (13 points) scored a transition layup that electrified Central’s fans and gave the Tigers their six-point cushion.
Central’s 31-19 halftime lead did not concern Hampshire coach Bob Barnett until the set his Whips ran to start the third quarter proved unsuccessful when they missed a layup. Tigers point guard Brad Knoeppel grabbed the defensive rebound, scored a layup, drew a foul and converted the three-point play to make it 34-19. That’s when Barnett began to think things really could unravel.
Hampshire (12-3, 1-1), which shot 24 percent (13 for 54) to the Tigers’ 51 percent (24 for 47), finally scored a field goal on center Shane Hernandez’s bucket with 5:51 left in the third. It wasn’t enough to spark a comeback. The Tigers outscored the Whips 21-9 to all but put the game away.
“We shot horrid, but instead of relying on each other we decided to go one-on-one and individual stuff, and we can’t do that,” Barnett said. “Central is a good team. They’re the best team we’ve faced all year, and when it’s physical like that you can’t abandon what you’re trying to do.”