School might be out for the holidays, but the Grayslake North boys basketball team got a history lesson on Saturday night.
Before they took the floor against Grant in their first game of the Grant Holiday Tournament, the Knights got the CliffsNotes version of what's been happening in the tournament over its six-year existence. And what they heard about their own program wasn't good.
"Not good at all," Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh said. "Over all this time, I don't think we've ever won more than two games here. We've played in the seventh- and eighth-place game the last two or three years and we've never finished better than fifth.
"We have not had a good history in this tournament, that's for sure. We feel like we always underachieve here. We just never play with much emotion."
No wonder Grunloh stayed intense on the sidelines even with double-digit leads in the fourth quarter. Anxious for his team to turn over a new leaf at Grant, he was vocal and animated, getting excited with good plays and showing displeasure with nearly every defensive lapse or silly mistake.
This time, though, there weren't many of those lapses or mistakes as Grayslake North put together one of its best showings in the tournament, rolling by Grant 73-58 in a game that wasn't close beyond the first six minutes.
The victory moves the Knights to 6-3 on the season while Grant drops to 5-7.
"We just ran what (the coaches) told us to run and it was working," said senior guard AJ Fish, who poured in a career-high 27 points. "I got some easy buckets and so did everyone else.
"It's a goal to win the tournament and play as well as we can. Hopefully, we can just build on this for the rest of the tournament and the rest of the season."
The Knights closed the first quarter with an 8-0 run to take an 18-10 lead into the second quarter. Then a quick 8-2 run put them up by 14 points with 6:11 to go before halftime.
Fish racked up 11 second-quarter points as the Knights took a 38-21 lead into the locker room at the break.
"We got a lot of stops tonight," Grunloh said. "Then we turned it into a full-court game and we were able to score in the open court. We let our five guards just run the court."
Grayslake North, which also got double-figures out of senior guards Danny Mateling (15 points) and Nick Carmody (11 points), unleashed a full-court press in the second half that put the turnover-prone Bulldogs even further behind the eight ball.
Grant is averaging 20 turnovers a game. The Bulldogs hit 20 turnovers on the nose against Grayslake North. In the third quarter when the Knights were most active with their press, Grant rolled up 8 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Grayslake North also out-rebounded the Bulldogs and was quicker to loose balls.
"It was one of the most frustrating games of the season," Grant coach Wayne Bosworth said. "They just outplayed us. They played harder than us, rebounded harder than us, they played defense harder than us, ran their offense better than us. There wasn't one aspect we beat them at tonight. Give them a lot of credit for doing that."
Three players scored in double-figures for Grant, led by junior forward Steve Dunning with 15 points. Senior forward Tom Blanchette had 12 points and senior forward Keion Miller added 10 points.
"We just need to be more disciplined," Dunning said. "Sometimes, we just don't come out with the kind of effort we need. We need to start growing up and being men about the situation so that we can get this turned around."
McHenry 89, Round Lake 48: There was snow outside the Grant gym on Saturday, but it was raining inside. Three-pointers, that is.
Thanks to a whopping 18 3-pointers, McHenry crushed Round Lake on the first day of holiday tournament action at Grant.
Greg Johnson and Shane Varvil each scored 25 points for McHenry and were red-hot from downtown. Johnson rolled up seven 3-pointers while Varvil had six 3-pointers.
The Warriors were up by 20 points (44-24) at halftime and never were threatened.
Meanwhile, Round Lake junior guard Karnell Wright also had a monster game. And he found his rhythm from 3-point range as well.
He racked up a game-high 31 points on four 3-pointers.
Northridge Prep 50, Richmond-Burton 48: In the opening game of the Grant Holiday Tournament, Northridge Prep slipped away with a close-call victory.