It's hard to ask for a better defensive performance in the fourth quarter than what the Grayslake Central Rams put forth in a Fox Valley Conference Fox Division clash at Crystal Lake Central on Tuesday night.
The Rams held the Tigers scoreless for virtually the entire period and limited the home team to just 8 shots while forcing 7 turnovers in the final quarter.
But the one shot the Tigers hit proved to be the biggest shot of the night.
An offensive rebound and putback from junior Kyle Fleck with 55 seconds left in the game were the only points of the final quarter for the Tigers. It proved to be just enough. Fleck's bucket nearly was overshadowed by a 3-point attempt from Grayslake's Danny Reed that just rimmed away as time expired, giving the Tigers a heart-stopping 57-55 win over the Rams.
It was the 20th consecutive win at home for Crystal Lake Central (17-6, 7-3). The loss snapped a nine-game winning streak for Grayslake Central.
"This was a great high school basketball game and exactly the type of game you want to be in before you get into the state tournament," said Grayslake coach Brian Moe. "Give them credit -- they made one more play at the end."
Grayslake Central (17-6, 9-1) was put into a deep hole early in the second half when standout senior Casey Boyle turned his left ankle and missed the rest of the contest. Crystal Lake Central took advantage as Fleck and senior Nick Inzerillo got aggressive.
Inzerillo scored 8 of his 10 points in the third quarter as the Tigers built their cushion to as many as 55-48 at the end of the period. But a key running layup from Savonte McWilliams (8 points) brought the Rams within 55-50 after 3 quarters.
"It hurt us a lot, losing a big player like Casey," said senior Jordan Taylor who led all scorers with 17 points. "But we battled back and stuck together and couldn't quite pull it out in the end."
The Rams dug in defensively in the fourth quarter, getting 5 consecutive turnovers that led to a 55-55 tie with 4:15 left. Neither team could convert until Fleck finally found an opening in the Grayslake defense.
"In the end, I am just glad we won the game," said Fleck, who tied for team-high honors with Chase Cane by scoring 12 points. "It doesn't matter who got the 2 points in the end, just that we won it."
Grayslake Central, who also got 10 points from Tyler Smith, can wrap up a share of the Fox Valley Fox Division title with a win at home against Woodstock on Friday night.