CARY — No one had to remind the Cary-Grove girls basketball team how important the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division game against Crystal Lake South was.
The winner would move into a first place tie atop the division with Huntley while the loser would fall to second.
So the Trojans (14-6 overall, 7-1 FVC Valley) prepared with that in mind, looking to avenge an early season loss to the Gators on Dec. 7. They did, winning 48-36 over the visiting Gators Friday evening.
"It feels awesome," said Joslyn Nicholson who had a game-high 14 points while playing superb defense. "We are playing the way we need to be playing lately and to get back at [the Gators] is just, wow, it feels great.
"We have been getting mentally prepared for this all week and focused on not freaking out and how to handle their defense."
The Trojans worked around the Gators' 2-3 zone defense well with a mixture of jump shots, layups and moving the ball. At times, the Trojans were stifled but they were able to crack the defense that had their number in the first meeting.
Olivia Jakubicek scored 13 points, highlighted by nice finishes at the rim. She also was a great facilitator and added five assists.
The Trojans saw four bench players combine for 14 points while the Gators didn't see bench points until Carina Madoni scored six points in the last four minutes of the game.
C-G also played spectacular defense, giving South (17-5, 5-2) fits all game.
The Trojans played a tough halfcourt trap which confused the Gators and kept them off balance.
"For us, everything starts on the defense, everything, Trojans head coach Rod Saffert said. His team forced 19 turnovers in the game. "The defense has got to a level where you only see that play at the end of the season. It's really exciting to see."
The tough Trojan defense held the Gators without a basket for 12 minutes and gave up just one point on a free-throw in the third quarter.
"We didn't want to play quite that fast," Gators' head coach Kyle McCaughn said of the Trojans' style. "But that's what they do and that's how the make you play. They hit us right in the chops and we answered it two times but coming out in the third quarter we couldn't answer. We needed to make that next stop and that next shot but we just couldn't get it.
"Tonight we just made an extra pass too many times that we didn't need to and we missed out on some open shots. We weren't ready to pull the trigger. We maybe made too many passes and turned the ball over because of it."
Sara Mickow just missed a double-double for the Gators, scoring nine points and posting 12 rebounds while Rachel Rasmussen led the team with 10 points.
"Mickow is unbelievable on the boards," Saffert said. "She's great and really tough to defend."