Seconds after his boys basketball squad lost on yet another buzzer-beater, Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh ran to console a member of Team Grunloh.
Kennedy Grunloh was crying loudly, and not because Lionel "Jr." Ortiz gave visiting Woodstock North a thrilling, 62-60 win in a Fox Valley Fox Division opener by sinking his winning shot over Kennedy's favorite player, A.J. Fish.
"She fell," Grunloh said of his 3½-year-old daughter. "She must have been on the edge of her seat."
Grayslake North (9-5) overcame a 24-point opening quarter by Woodstock North (7-8) to take a three-point lead in the final minute. But the Knights lost at the buzzer for the second time in four games when the 5-foot-8 Ortiz dribbled toward the baseline and flipped up a running 10-footer over the athletic Fish, who's about 6 inches taller.
"That's how we planned it," said Ortiz, smiling. "No, I'm just kidding.
"I've been trying to knock down end-of-the-quarter shots, and they haven't fell for me until tonight. When (Coach) called timeout, we were sitting down and I was thinking in my head, 'If I get the ball, I'm going to make this.' "
Ortiz's heroics spoiled the performance of Grayslake North's Danny Mateling, who was making all of his shots. The Knights had taken a 60-57 lead on Mateling's 2 free throws with 47.8 seconds left.
Mateling, a senior and three-year varsity guard, finished with a game- and career-high 25 points.
But Woodstock North guard Steven Whiting (team-high 15 points) hit an around-and-in 3-pointer with Mateling closing quickly, tying the score with 30 seconds left.
"That was a good shot," Mateling said. "Whiting, he's good."
Woodstock North got the chance to win the game after Grayslake North turned the ball over with nine seconds left. After a timeout, the visitors raced the ball into frontcourt.
"We told the kids to get the ball inbounds. That was our No. 1 goal," Thunder coach Steve Ryan said. "The second thing was, we wanted the last shot. We spread it out and we were just running our motion offense. We set the screen at the top (by Nick Herscha). You never know what can happen when you get a shot up."
Ortiz, whose shooting earlier in the game set the tone, found the ball in his hands as the final seconds ticked off. As he was all night, he was aggressive and confident.
His 8 points, which included a pair of 3-pointers, had helped stake Woodstock North to a 24-14 lead (10-of-13 shooting) after one quarter.
The Thunder sank 5 of 9 shots in the fourth and finished 24 of 44 (55 percent) for the game. Besides Whiting, Woodstock North also got double-digit points from Ortiz (14 points, three 3s, 4 assists), sophomore guard Josh Jandron (12 points) and guard Shane Zieman (11 points, three 3-pointers).
"They shot it well for four quarters," Grunloh said. "I didn't think we did great defensively, but at the same time, they deserve all the credit. They made some open shots, and they made some contested shots."
Woodstock North led by 12 early in the second quarter, but Fish scored 11 of his 18 points to help bring Grayslake North within 33-29 by halftime. The hosts pulled even in third, only to see the Thunder go back up by 10, before Mateling closed the quarter with back-to-back 3s to cut the Knights' deficit to 48-46.
Mateling shot 9 of 14 from the floor, sinking four 3-pointers, and 3 of 4 from the line.
Grayslake North, which also got 8 points from Nick Carmody, had lost to McHenry in Grant's tournament on a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"It's rough," said Mateling, whose previous career best of 23 points came against Crystal Lake Central last season. "I liked that we played hard to get back in the game, but the first quarter definitely (hurt) our game. Our defense wasn't running too hot."
"Things went very well for us all night long," Ryan said. "It's nice to see the kids get this."