CARY – No one told the Cary-Grove and Grayslake North girls basketball teams that, with the playoffs only days away and division play over, nothing was technically at stake during Friday's crossover game.
But in what has become an annual meeting between the Fox Valley Conference Valley and Fox champions – dubbed the unofficial conference title game – C-G and Grayslake North desperately wanted the win and bragging rights.
The Knights were poised to pull off a tough road win. However, C-G, in a familiar scene, took control in the game's final two minutes. Senior forward Joslyn Nicholson's layup put the Trojans ahead by one point with less than two minutes remaining and from there, senior forward Olivia Jakubicek's near perfection at the free throw line delivered C-G a 56-48 win.
Jakubicek went 9 for 10 at the free throw line in the final 1:30 turning a one-point Trojans lead into a comfortable win. C-G (21-6) outscored the Knights 9-2 during that span with Grayslake North's only points coming off a layup with 16 seconds left. Jakubicek finished with a game-high 24 points and hit 14 of 17 free throws.
"It's definitely fun," Jakubicek said of shooting late-game free throws. "At the beginning of the season it was one of my goals to have a high free throw percentage. I've definitely been practicing and working on it. It's in games like these where I'm glad I do practice them."
The Trojans grabbed a 25-23 lead heading into halftime on Jakubicek's driving layup as time expired, overcoming what once was a six-point Knights lead. The Knights (25-3) couldn't take advantage of C-G's offensive struggles and 12 first half turnovers. Grayslake North scored 17 points in the first quarter but went cold from the field in the second and third quarters scoring 13 combined points.
Although Jakubicek led the team in scoring, the Trojans got plenty of scoring from their other four starters. Each scored at least four points while sophomore guard Katie Barker (two 3-pointers) and Nicholson (six of 10 points scored in the fourth) kept the Knights' defense honest.
"You've got to have your main scorers score," C-G coach Rod Saffert said. "But I've told these guys all year, some of them need to get two [points], get us four and if you do that's how you win games."
The Knights' ability to make 3-pointers – guard Kendall Detweiler finished with four, part of a team-high 17 points – always kept them in the game. Four of their seven fourth quarter field goals came from beyond the arc, and Emily Dugan's 3 with 4:53 remaining gave Grayslake North their first lead in a quarter.
“For us, win or lose coming into their place and playing them to the final minute, I’m happy with the way we played,” Knights coach Nathan Flannery said. “Granted every coach wants to win but like I told the girls, I've been more upset after some of our wins with the way we played than I did tonight with they way they played. They're a great program, a great team and we played with them."