McHENRY – Something had to change as the Crystal Lake South girls basketball team walked into the locker room at halftime.
The Gators’ first half effort against McHenry, which left them trailing by 12 to start the third quarter, lacked intensity as they struggled to find an offensive flow. And without its leading scorer, junior forward Sara Mickow, unable to play with her left foot in a walking boot, South needed someone to take charge.
South was fueled by sophomore forward Carly Nolan and junior guard Rachel Rasmussen in the third quarter. Together they scored 11 of the Gators’ 19 third quarter points as South erased a 16-point deficit to storm back for a 51-46 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win.
An 8-0 run during the final 1:27 of the third quarter, punctuated by Carina Madoni’s layup as time expired gave the Gators their first lead of the game, 39-37. South would not trail the rest of the game. Nolan came off the bench to score 11 of her game-high 15 points and didn’t let up in the fourth despite foul trouble.
“Since Sara’s usually our big scorer, I felt like someone needed to step up so I tried my best,” Nolan said. “It’s a big change for us, but we’re trying to work through it.”
Greta Taylor’s two free throws with 1:43 left until halftime put McHenry ahead 32-16 for its largest lead of the game. South managed to grab a little momentum before the quarter ended on baskets by Nolan and Rasmussen. From that point on, the Gators (19-6, 8-3 FVC Valley) outscored the Warriors 35-14 to erase the 16-point deficit.
“We knew we had to come out stronger,” Nolan said. “In the locker room we talked about our intensity, our energy and we had to pick it up, our defense especially.”
The combination of Rasmussen’s outside shooting – she hit three 3-pointers and finished with 14 points – and senior forward Lauren Del Vecchio’s ability to sink jumpers at the top of the key complemented Nolan’s effort in the paint, which kept McHenry’s defense off balance.
“Carly has a knack for finding that open spot on the floor,” Gators coach Kyle McCaughn said. “Credit to our girls, a couple of times they found her wide open. They dribble attacked; they got doubled and they found her because she was in the right place at the right time to finish.”
McCaughn credited McHenry for its great start, capitalizing on South’s sluggish play in the first half. But South’s intensity to start the third quarter caused the Warriors to wilt under increased defensive pressure. McHenry (13-15, 4-7) committed more turnovers in the third (seven) than during the entire first half (six). Five Warriors scored at least seven points led by Sawyer Law’s nine.
“I thought the first half was outstanding,” Warriors coach Scott Morris said. “We did everything we wanted to, played a great two quarters and everything we talked about before the game we did in those first two quarters. ... When the going gets tough, we seem to go into our little shell.”