CRYSTAL LAKE – Haley Ream really didn’t think the ball was coming back to her.
Once the Huntley senior guard tossed it to teammate Sam Andrews as the seconds wound off the clock in the fourth quarter of a must-win game against Crystal Lake South on Wednesday, Ream figured the hot-handed Andrews would take care of the rest. The 3-point deficit the Red Raiders faced didn’t concern her as long as Andrews had the ball.
South knew to disrupt that calm. The Gators’ pressure forced Andrews to defer to Ream, who kicked her toes just behind the 3-point arc and lined a desperation shot that carried with it Huntley’s chances of retaining sole possession of first place in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division.
The shot went in to send the game to its first overtime, and two extra sessions later Huntley beat South, 54-52. Ream, who had flashes of nervousness when she suddenly needed to handle the critical play, never doubted the Red Raiders would.
“I was hoping it was going in. When you’re looking at it like that it looks good, but you never know,” Ream said. “I never thought we were going to lose, though. … [Even when] we weren’t doing what we needed to do, but I didn’t think we were going to lose.”
In those final few seconds of the fourth quarter, the Raiders’ chances seemed slim. South led 44-41 with 8.9 seconds left before Huntley coach Steve Raethz called timeout.
Andrews got the inbound pass at the top of the arc, just as the play was designed, but Andrews couldn’t get off the shot. Ream caught Andrews’ pass, slid to her left and took the most important shot of the season to date.
“It was nice to see her be so offensive-minded, especially down the stretc,h” Raethz said of Ream. “We really needed her to knock that down and she did it.”
Huntley (18-4 overall, 8-1 FVC Valley) went ahead for the first time since just before halftime, 47-46, on a free throw by freshman Ali Andrews (game-high 28 points, 12 rebounds) with 1:04 left in the first overtime. South junior guard Rachel Rasmussen and sophomore Carly Nolan knocked down free throws to help South lead 49-47 with 13 seconds left, but Ali Andrews hit a baseline jumper to force the second overtime.
Senior guard Stephanie Oros’ 3-pointer with 1:38 to play in double overtime put the Gators up 52-51, but Bethany Zornow and Ali Andrews hit free throws to give Huntley the final margin.
“It was a crazy game, fighting for first place (in the FVC Valley) like that, but it is what it is,” said Oros, whose big steal and layup at the end of the first quarter had sparked a 16-8 run to help the Gators lead 25-24 at halftime. “We definitely came out and played all four quarters, then more. We gave it all we had.”