CRYSTAL LAKE – It took less than one minute Wednesday for Crystal Lake South’s girls basketball team to serve McHenry notice: It was going to be a long evening.
The Gators rolled into the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division meeting with the Warriors with the intention of setting the tempo not just for the next 32 minutes but for the next 48, as well. With a showdown against Cary-Grove looming Friday, South threw everything it had at the Warriors to try to establish a rhythm.
For the entirety of their 45-24 victory at Gator Alley, South never lost that synergy.
“We wanted to come out strong because we do have Cary-Grove on Friday and we knew their coaches would be here to watch,” South sophomore forward Carly Nolan said. “We had to play our best.”
Nolan, who led all scorers with 12 points, could be credited for leading the charge to establish the Gators’ early pace. Nolan took a pass from teammate Stephanie Oros in the first minute of play and posted up against McHenry senior forward Brittany Avonts for two points. Nolan connected with Oros on the Gators’ next possession, and junior guard Rachel Rasmussen found Nolan under the basket two minutes later.
Mickow hit Rasmussen in transition with 2:38 left in the first quarter for an easy layup that gave South an 8-2 advantage at the end of the first quarter. South extended its lead to 12 points, 16-4, in the middle of the third on a putback from Mickow, which punctuated a particularly unfortunate sequence for McHenry. The Warriors had the Gators beat in transition on three straight possessions, but errant passes led to turnovers over each time.
South led 19-7 at halftime, helped undoubtedly by McHenry’s trouble maintaining possession. The Warriors turned the ball over 15 times in the first half.
“It’s the little things lately,” McHenry coach Scott Morris said. “We can’t catch the ball so we turn it over, our shots don’t fall. We’re struggling in almost every aspect of the game. That’s on me. We need to get into the gym, maybe try some new [lineups], … but we just can’t put four quarters together.”
Knowing a 12-point advantage is precarious, South came out running in the third and scored six quick points – Mickow and Nolan on putbacks, Rasmussen on a transition layup – for a more comfortable cushion, 25-9. The Gators posted 18 points in the third quarter to all but sew up the victory.
South coach Kyle McCaughn said he was leary of McHenry entering the game and was pleased with how his team responded.
“It’s the old cliché, but we know (every) game is the most important game,” he said. “ … I give the kids a lot of credit tonight.”