The occasions are rare that Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty has to remind senior Stephen Curry to be more aggressive on the basketball floor.
But this unusual scenario occurred Friday night when the Cougars hosted Wauconda in a North Suburban Conference Prairie Division contest,
Curry had a very good reason for his slow start.
"A couple of our coaches saw him munching on Puppy Chow and cupcakes before the game," McCarty said.
The goodies were a bit too good for birthday boy Curry. But when he finally shook off the effects of the sugar high, everything was sweet for the Cougars.
Curry turned the game around with 6 big points to end the first half and finished with a game-high 17 to lead Vernon Hills to a come-from-behind 58-44 win over the Bulldogs.
It was the Cougars' second win this season over Wauconda and the Bulldogs' fourth loss in the last five games.
"Coach just told me to be more aggressive," said Curry. "I knew that this was a big game for us and that I had to step it up."
The Cougars (9-12, 5-4) hit a scoring drought in the second quarter and Wauconda took full advantage. The Bulldogs opened the second period scoring the first 10 points to take a 19-10 advantage with 5:22 left in the first half.
"With the way things were looking, I thought we were going to go into halftime down double figures," McCarty said. "We were missing free throws, fouling (Wauconda) and not shooting well. It wasn't a good combination."
Enter the sweet-toothed Curry.
"Coach took me out for about a minute and told me he needed me to step it up," Curry said. "I knew I had to get into the game and help my teammates out."
Over the final 52 seconds of the first half, Curry scored on 3 layups, hauled down a pair of rebounds and turned a steal into a bucket that cut a 9-point lead for Wauconda (11-11, 5-5) down to 21-18 at the break.
"We tried to put our thumb print on controlling the end of quarters and we coughed it up there at the end of the first half," said Bulldogs coach Scott Luetschwager. "Then Curry did a great job of capitalizing in getting those 6 quick points and that stung a little."
Curry had help from teammates Michael Mariella (10 points) and Robby Nardini (8 points) in breaking the game open in the third quarter. But it was the long-range shooting of Dylan McNamara that open and closed the quarter for the Cougars.
McNamara's first 3-pointer tied the game at 21-21 to open the second half. His last one of the quarter with 1:55 left gave Vernon Hills the lead for good. McNamara finished with 14 points.
"I told Stephen at halftime that I needed him to be the best player on the floor in the second half and he was," McCarty said.
The Bulldogs built their 9-point advantage behind the play of sophomore Ricky Sidlowski and junior Dion Head.
Sidlowski scored 8 of his 11 points in the first half, while Head kept the Bulldogs in the game in the second half by scoring 7 of his team-best 12 after intermission.