Carmel's hopes of starting the boys basketball season 3-0 looked fairly good when it opened up a 16-point lead in the second quarter on Prairie Ridge in Crystal Lake Central's Coaches vs. Cancer Thanksgiving Tourney.
But those plans of a perfect start took a foul turn in the second half Saturday night. Michael Bradshaw hit six 3-pointers and scored 26 of his career-high 38 points in the final 10:23 and Prairie Ridge went 24-for-31 at the free-throw line in the last 10:53 to pull off a 76-71 comeback victory.
"We did a lot of stupid things like playing defense with our hands and we have to do a better job of not doing that," said Carmel coach Tim Bowen after his team made 17-of-27 free throws but had three players foul out in the tightly-called game. "Maybe we got a little ahead of ourselves after winning the first two games."
And the long-range shooting of guards Nickai Poyser (22 points) and Greg Edkins (14 points) sparked a 16-point run which led Carmel to a 32-16 lead 5:16 before halftime. Prairie Ridge (2-1) got within 33-28 at intermission but still trailed 47-37 after a free throw by the Corsairs' Cullen Barr (19 points, 11 rebounds) with 28 seconds left in the third.
"They're very difficult to defend and they take it right at you," said Prairie Ridge coach Corky Card after his team finished 28-for-37 on free throws. "I thought our kids did a nice job of just plugging away and not letting the game get away from us."
Bradshaw hit four 3s in the first 8:40 but then went scoreless for nearly 13 minutes. But the first of 12 perfect free-throw attempts jump-started an amazing finish that brought the 6-foot-2 junior just 4 points from equaling the Prairie Ridge single-game scoring record.
"My shots started to fall right away and everyone started trying to get me the ball because I was hot," Bradshaw said after shooting 10-of-17 from the field and 6-for-11 behind the arc. "Getting to the free-throw line really gets me into a rhythm."
Bradshaw banked in his final 3 to cap a 22-4 tear which put Prairie Ridge up 59-51. Carmel got within 61-58 on Poyser's steal and 360-degree spinning drive at 3:28 but Bradshaw answered with the next 6 points.
"For about two minutes in the middle of the game we looked like a basketball team," Bowen said. "Our perimeter defense was bad two nights in a row. It needs to improve and it didn't get better tonight, and with poor perimeter defense comes fouls."