There's the time-honored speech coaches give players about never looking past the game at hand.
But for 16 minutes Wednesday night in Carpentersville, Cary-Grove's girls basketball team sure did look like it was thinking more about Saturday's big Fox Valley Conference Valley Division matchup at Huntley than it was about the game at hand.
Fortunately for the Trojans, games are 32 minutes and not 16.
Cary-Grove overcame what might have been its worst first half of the season to eventually pull away from Dundee-Crown, winning 39-18 in a Valley game the host Chargers led 10-9 at halftime.
The Trojans (11-6, 4-1) missed their first 13 shots of the game. They trailed 4-1 after one quarter and finally made a basket when senior Olivia Jakubicek put pack her own miss 10 seconds into the second quarter.
But an impressive man-to-man defense by Dundee-Crown limited the Trojans to 8 points in the second quarter and C-G went into the locker room facing a 10-9 deficit.
"We just came out with a big head expecting to win," said C-G senior Joslyn Nicholson. "(Dundee-Crown) came ready to play and we were only sort of ready. We got too ahead of ourselves thinking about Saturday. It took us some time to get into the flow of the game."
Had Dundee-Crown (2-15, 0-5) shot better and taken care of the basketball better, the Chargers could have had a much bigger lead at the halftime break. D-C was just 5-for-19 in the first half and had 11 turnovers.
"We missed easy shots," said D-C coach Michelle Russell. "We were getting open but we were rushing the easy shots and we need to handle the basketball better."
The second half was a completely different Cary-Grove team. After scoring the final 4 points of the first half, the Trojans held D-C scoreless in the third quarter and righted their own offensive ship, shooting 7-for-13 after going just 3 of 18 in the first half. Nicholson scored off a back door pass from junior Sarah Kendeigh on the inbounds pass to open the second half, then Kendeigh and Kylie Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers and the Trojans suddenly had some breathing room.
"We were more into the game in the second half," Nicholson said. "I know I was moving the ball around more and I was more focused."
By the end of the third quarter the Trojans had opened up a 25-10 lead, which they extended to 29-10 before D-C scored its first field goal in 13 minutes on a Lauren Lococo putback. But the Chargers could manage only one more basket the rest of the game, a 3-pointer from freshman Melissa Barker with 29 seconds left to play. D-C shot just 7 of 29 for the game, while Cary-Grove came back from the disastrous first half to finish 16-for-46.
"We were getting to the basket in the first half but they always had a couple people waiting and they were contested shots," said Cary-Grove assistant coach Andy Donaldson, who took over the team for head coach Rod Saffert (back injury) for the night. "We talked about getting open more and we needed to score off our defense. Those two things made a difference in the second half. But (Dundee-Crown) did a nice job of getting back on defense and they gave us fits. When we'd get a steal (in the first half) they were getting back on defense."
Jakubicek led the Trojans with 12 points and 8 rebounds, while Nicholson added 10 points and 5 steals as the Trojans helped create 26 D-C turnovers. Sophomore Katie Barker, in just her second game back from injury, scored 9 points for C-G. Junior Jerenka Baker had 6 points, all in the second quarter, to lead the Chargers. Jillian Weichmann had 8 rebounds for D-C.
"I was really pleased with how we played on defense," said Russell. "We held them under 40 points and I thought our defensive intensity was real good. We just need to make more shots and take better care of the ball."