Grayslake North junior guard Matt Taskovic earned the nickname "money" because of his free-throw shooting success.
Taskovic gave his team a holiday bonus in Wednesday night's second round of pool play in the Richmond-Burton and Johnsburg Thanksgiving Tournament. Taskovic calmly deposited both ends of a 1-and-1 situation in a tie game with 30.5 seconds to help the Knights escape with a 50-48 victory over the host Rockets at Lou Ramirez Gym in Richmond.
"Confident, because I do it at my house all the time," Taskovic said of his emotions after R-B tried to ice him with a timeout. "I always practice one to tie and two to win in that situation. But I was still nervous a little bit."
Grayslake North (2-0) coach Todd Grunloh wasn't after Taskovic was fouled in a game where R-B (0-2) fought back from giving up the first 12 points and falling behind by 19 points 1:02 before halftime.
"We called him money all summer long," Grunloh said. "He doesn't miss too many shots. When he gets the opportunity he's going to make it."
Taskovic's defense also helped ensure R-B's Mike Kaska (11 points) missed a 3-pointer with 10 seconds left. A missed 1-and-1 by Grayslake North senior A.J. Fish (21 points, 11 rebounds) at 0:07 gave Kaska another chance behind the arc but his shot bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
The Knights looked as if they eliminated any drama when Danny Mateling (9 points) hit a pair of 3s to spark them to a 12-0 lead. And when Taskovic hit a pair of free throws in a bonus situation for a 30-11 lead he could not have envisioned that his next trip to the free-throw line would be with the game on the line.
"I think we all kind of thought the game would be like that the rest of the way and we could coast through it," Taskovic said, "but they didn't stop playing and they had the home crowd on their side. We held together and the seniors helped us through it."
R-B's 1-2-2 fullcourt pressure caused Grayslake North to commit 16 of its 27 turnovers in a 12-minute stretch as its lead was cut to 42-40. A pair of steals led to Kaska layups that tied the game at 48-48 with 56 seconds left.
But Grayslake North survived and will play for first place in its pool at 5:30 p.m. Friday at R-B against Rockford Jefferson (2-0), a 67-62 overtime winner over Wauconda. The winner plays for the tourney title at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Johnsburg. "I think if you asked A.J., Danny and Nick (Carmody)," Grunloh said of his senior guard trio, "they would expect a little more than they've been able to do the last two nights. We're lucky to be 2-0 with the amount of turnovers we've had (19 in Tuesday's win over Wauconda)."