CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central’s boys basketball team had two strict orders Tuesday against Woodstock North: Do not put the Thunder in the bonus, and no shot blocking.
The Tigers obeyed the former. But with 35 seconds left in the fourth quarter, junior center Ian Koch just couldn’t help but ignore the latter.
Koch raced from midcourt to catch Thunder center Doug Devore, alone at the left hash mark after catching a lob pass from North guard Lionel Ortiz in transition. Devore no sooner took the would-be go-ahead bucket and Koch was airborne, rejecting it.
Had he been called for the foul, the play probably would have earned Koch extra laps at practice. Instead, it was the catalyst in a 46-45 victory against the Thunder in Fox Valley Conference Fox Division play.
“Instinct took over and I knew I had to make the play,” Koch said. “I had four fouls already, and we weren’t supposed to foul at all. I’m lucky I didn’t.”
Tigers guard Jason Price scooped up the blocked shot and was fouled in the backcourt. His two bonus free throws put the Tigers (3-21 overall, 2-8 FVC Fox) ahead, 45-42.
Thunder guard Josh Jandron hit a 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds left to tie the score at 45, but Central jumped ahead again on a free throw from Derek Olson with 8 seconds remaining.
North (6-18, 2-8) couldn’t get off a buzzer beater to steal the win from Central – a stranger to winning for all but the past two weeks. The Tigers have won three of their past four after starting 0-20.
“When it’s a close game on our home court, it feels like we’re just not going to lose,” said junior guard Cavanagh Murphy, who finished with 11 points. “We’re going to get it. … We got our three wins on our home court, the fans are starting to come out, and it’s feeling good.”
Central opened the game with a 10-0 run that included six points from junior guard Jack Ortner (11 points). The Thunder tied it at 10 on Jandron’s 3 with 45 seconds left in the first quarter, but a 12-2 run that spilled into the second to help put the Tigers ahead 27-24 at the half.
The teams traded advantages in the third and most of the fourth, until Central went up for good, 43-42, on two Price free throws with 1:15 left to play.
“Give [the Tigers] credit,” North coach Steve Ryan said. “Rich has got them playing extremely hard. You would never know the type of season they’re having. They’re giving it all they’ve got.”