Hampshire's 54-49 Fox Valley Conference boys basketball crossover victory against visiting Crystal Lake South on Thursday bordered on the surreal, but it was hardly a work of art.
The Whip-Purs won their eighth straight game despite shooting 19 of 55 from the field (34.5 percent), outdone by CL South's 17 of 53 shooting struggles (32.1 percent).
"Boy, that was just ugly," Hampshire coach Bob Barnett said. "As my assistant said, we came in second in the ugly contest."
CL South (2-5) took a 37-33 lead on senior guard Nick Geske's 3-pointer with 7:25 left in the game, but Hampshire's 15-2 run in response began with a beautiful shot from senior guard Brendan Waterworth.
After Hampshire's Ryan Cork hit a turnaround jump shot, a Gator miss at the other end sent the Whip-Purs into transition. Waterworth slipped unguarded to the left side of the 3-point arc and let fly, hitting nothing but net for a 38-37 lead Hampshire did not relinquish.
"I knew we were struggling in the half-court game, so I wanted to get transition points," said Waterworth, who finished with 14 points and 4 rebounds. "I was ready to shoot and just knocked it down."
Hampshire made the Gators pay for not extending their lead when they had the chances.
"I thought it was a big swing after we were up 3 with the ball twice in a row and we don't convert either layups or open threes," CL South coach Matt LePage said. "Then we left a wide-open shooter on the other end after we miss. We don't get back in transition and they get a three. It was a big swing. I thought that was probably the swing of the game."
Hampshire senior center Shane Hernandez (game-high 15 points, 8 rebounds) kept the surge going with a one-handed bucket from the lane, Waterworth sank 2 free throws and senior guard Tyler Crater sank a tough jumper from the elbow on a night when he made only 3 of 18 attempts.
"I struggled all night, obviously, but my teammates were able to pick up a lot of the load," said Crater, who grabbed a team-best 9 rebounds to go with 3 assists and a block. "That's the sign of a good team -- one guy doesn't have it going but another guy does and we're able to get a big win."
Hampshire narrowly won the battle of the boards (31-29) and finished with 1 less turnover (11) than the Gators. CL South senior guard Alex Bartusch scored 6 fourth-quarter points, including a 3-pointer that drew the Gators within 50-44 with 37 seconds left. He finished with a team-best 13 points.
However, Hernandez drained 4 consecutive free throws in the final 30 seconds, part of a 12 -of-14, fourth-quarter performance by the Whip-Purs at the free throw line. The victory improved Hampshire to 8-1 heading into the opener of the DeKalb Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament against Marmion on Thursday at 5 p.m.
"It's definitely better than 2-7 last year," Hernandez said Hampshire's solid start. "We just need to keep it going, not let it get to us and just keep playing how we're playing. If we can win like that, not making anything, then we should be pretty good."