GRAYSLAKE – Hampshire was primed to break its trend in tight Fox Valley Conference Fox Division boys basketball games.
Grayslake Central was not.
Hampshire led most of the second half, including three five-point margins in the fourth quarter, but the Rams, kings of pulling out close victories, did it again.
Hampshire was unable to get a quality shot despite holding the ball for the last 39 seconds of regulation. Once in overtime, Grayslake Central took control for a 66-57 victory Saturday night that leaves the Rams firmly in control of the division race.
“We just kind of lost our heads in the fourth quarter,” said Whip-Purs forward Matt Bridges, who scored 15 points and grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds. “We played a great game, everyone worked their butts off. It’s a rough loss. That one hurts, especially a [division] game that we needed.”
Hampshire (9-12 overall, 5-3 FVC Fox) trails Grayslake Central (12-7, 8-0) by three games. The Rams are two games up in the loss column to Woodstock, which is 3-2 in division games with several yet to make up from weather postponements.
“They’re 8-0. There’s no way we can catch them,” Hampshire coach Bob Barnett said. “It would take a lot of luck and we’d have to win out, which is no easy task, either. We had our chances and it got away. All three of those [division] losses we’ve had the lead in the fourth quarter. We didn’t make the plays when we needed to.”
Hampshire led 51-50 after Ryan Cork made two free throws with 57 seconds to go in regulation. The Rams’ Joey Mudd hit a free throw to tie the score with 39 seconds remaining.
Grayslake Central’s defense rushed Hampshire on the other end and Barnett called timeout with 16 seconds to go. He called another timeout when a loose ball was knocked out of bounds, to Hampshire, with 4.1 seconds left.
The plan was to run Cork, who led all players with 23 points, off a set of screens to get him a one-on-one opportunity. Junior guard Drew Doran took the pass and shot a 3-pointer with two seconds to go.
“It’s not Drew’s fault. It’s just not understanding what we’re trying to get done,” Barnett said. “They were going to switch on Ryan and he could have had his man one-on-one.”
Grayslake Central took full advantage of that reprieve. Mudd scored five of his 12 points in overtime and the Rams never trailed. Grayslake Central defeated Hampshire, 49-47, on Jan. 4 on a shot in the final seconds.
“It’s relying on our other teammates,” Mudd said. “We have really good team chemistry this year. You start with yourself and rely on the other players to do their jobs.”
Rams coach Brian Moe felt having three seniors and Mudd, a second-year starter as a junior, in the starting lineup is key, although forward Alex Lennartz was out Saturday after suffering a broken nose in Friday’s game.
“You have to hope the seniors make big plays at the end and take care of the ball,” Moe said. “And God bless them, they find ways to make plays. I shut up and stay out of their way.”
Charlie Anderson led Grayslake Central with 14 points, while Malcolm Reed scored 13 and Mudd and Sam Ruhlmann each scored 12.
“I hate losing, and in close games it’s even worse,” Cork said. “It was just composure. When we have the lead, we need to get good shots, layups, and just take care of the ball.”