CARY – The scoring burst was fast and furious, turning tenacious defensive pressure on one end of the floor into easy offense on the other.
It was the kind of surge Ralph Schuetzle knew his Cary-Grove boys basketball team was capable of once it returned to full strength. But It was also the kind of quick turnaround that Crystal Lake South – playing for the first time without injured leading scorer Austin Rogers – simply couldn't afford.
In the end, the Trojans' explosive start to the second half proved to be just the kick-start they needed in a 61-43 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win over the Gators on Friday night.
The Trojans outscored South, 22-4, in the opening five minutes of the third quarter, relying on a wealth of scoring sources to turn what had been a four-point halftime lead into a runaway victory.
"It was huge," said C-G junior Jason Gregoire, who scored a game-high 22 points. "We knew we had to come out strong [in the third quarter], and we just started hitting some shots.
"[South] was already playing without Rogers, and once we built the lead like we did, I think we took some of their confidence."
The Trojans (11-8 overall, 4-2 FVC Valley) were able to keep the Gators on the run during the pivotal stretch. In addition to Gregoire's steady scoring hand, Devin McDonough (11 points) sparked C-G with three 3-pointers, two of which came early during the early second-half surge. The Trojans finished the night with eight 3s.
When Gregoire turned a steal into a breakaway one-handed dunk, South coach Matt LePage was forced to call timeout with his team suddenly trailing by 14.
At that point, only two minutes of the third quarter had expired. Three minutes later, the Gators' deficit was 22.
"It happened quick, really quick," said LePage, whose team struggled offensively without Rogers, who tore two ligaments and suffered meniscus damage in his knee Wednesday during an overtime win against Marian Central.
"We had turnovers, and they started hitting some shots. It was kind of like the perfect storm."
South (14-4, 2-3), which was led by Caleb Johnson (14 points) and Chris Mahoney (11), never recovered.
The Trojans relied on their depth to keep the defensive pressure on during the third quarter when they outscored the Gators, 24-11. With plenty of personnel to throw at the Gators, C-G switched its defensive press, taking away many of the open perimeter shots South had used in the first half to stay close.
The offense took off from there for C-G, which came into the game averaging 49 points. From here on out, it's a performance Schuetzle knows his team can build on.
"When we can get to trapping people, turn them over and then stick some 3s, we can be dangerous because we can score some points in a hurry," Schuetzle said.