After a 32-day journey in which Hampshire's boys basketball team went 6-2 during an 8-game stretch on the road, the Whip-Purs finally came home Saturday afternoon.
And Hampshire senior Tyler Crater used the welcome home mat more like a springboard.
The 6-foot-3 Crater grabbed a layup missed by Ryan Cork 2 minutes into the game and slammed it home with both hands, which invigorated the crowd into a frenzy. The dunk, Crater's first in a game, served as a linchpin for an incredible shooting exhibition. Crater drained 8 of his first 9 shots, including 7 straight, scoring 20 points in the first half en route to a game-high 26 in Hampshire's 64-53 Fox Valley Conference Fox Division matinee win over Grayslake North.
Crater (10 for 16 overall) outdueled Grayslake North guard AJ Fish, who dropped 14 of his 25 points during that stretch as Crater and Fish made it a two-man show for the first 16 minutes. Hampshire (15-3, 4-1) shot a 65 percent clip on 15 for 23 shooting while Grayslake North (11-6, 2-1) saw a 57.6 percentage on 15 for 26 shooting.
"Ryan and I coach (the) 7th grade teams and we had some games this morning so I was out there shooting with them all morning and I think that got me ready to go," said Crater.
Hampshire's third-straight win and fifth in its last seven games saw the lead change hands once in the first half along with 6 ties. Crater gave the Whips some breathing room just before halftime when he dropped the second of his five 3-pointers from the left corner for a 5-point lead with 2:30 remaining. After a North basket on the next possession, Crater nailed his third 3, making it 33-27. Cork's Steve Nash-like pass from the point that threaded the needle through the lane to Crater on the right block made it 7-point lead as Hampshire marched into the half up 5 on a 13-8 run.
"I think both teams in the first half shot real well," Hampshire coach Bob Barnett said. "But in the third quarter both of us cooled off. I think there was a stretch of 3 minutes neither team could get one to drop. But the way both teams shot in the first half, that's going to happen."
The iron became unkind as Hampshire won the third quarter 10-4 on 3 of 12 shooting from the field. Even worse, the Knights went 2 for 16 as Fish was 1 of 7 and Danny Mateling (14 points), who scored 11 in the first half going a perfect 5 for 5, was 0 for 4.
"We got stops, we held them to 10 points but we couldn't get anything going offensively," Fish said. "It's hard to play defense when (Crater's) hitting every single shot,"
North coach Todd Grunloh went further.
"I mean for one of the first times in a long time there was almost all one-on-one. Not like selfish, forced shots, but it was almost like clear out, let's attack our man and shoot a jumper that was open," he said. "We didn't have the team aspect of the game where we've had the ball movement the last 10 to 12 games I'd say."
Hampshire held a 31-21 rebounding advantage as Shane Hernandez (11 points) hauled in 6 rebounds.