Newcomers to the Johnsburg/Richmond-Burton tournament, Crystal Lake South's boys basketball team is loving the hospitality.
"Phenomenal," Gators coach Matt LePage said of Richmond-Burton's splashy new gym, which includes an electronic backboard with a shot clock, albeit superfluous, and game clock above it.
Crystal Lake South is pretty thrilled with its 3-0 start, too, although LePage stressed after his team's 80-43 rout of Grayslake North on Friday night that it has to get better.
"He's an intense guy," Gators senior Austin Rogers, who scored a game-high 18 points, said with a smile of his coach. "There's always something you got to work on."
Crystal Lake South will play Grant (3-0) at 7:30 p.m. today at Richmond-Burton for the championship.
"We're playing pretty well, but we got to play well (tonight) against Grant for us to win," LePage said. "We've been playing a lot of guys, and I feel like we're coming together, trying to find a rotation. We got a lot of kids from 6-12 that can really come in and do the job."
Against Grayslake North (0-3), LePage was even able to empty his bench late, as 14 Gators saw the court. All but three players scored. Reserves Kyle Bartusch (9 points), Tyler Baker and Alex Reich each sank a 3-pointer.
Crystal Lake South bolted to a 21-6 lead after one quarter, as Chris Mahoney (7 points) and Steve Thomas each hit a 3. Thomas had all 5 of his points in the opening quarter. Rogers, who used his 6-foot-2 frame, strength and athleticism to aggressively attack the basket all game, scored 9 points in the second quarter in helping the Gators take a 36-19 lead into halftime. Bartusch's buzzer-beating 3 extended the advantage to 68-32 after three.
"We got good spacing," Rogers said. "We're moving the ball, spreading the ball around and making shots. Things are going well for us."
Aidan Einloth had 13 points and 6 rebounds for Grayslake North, which dug a 15-4 hole, missed 4 free throws in the first quarter and wound up 18 of 35 from the line. Dom DiProva and Nate Dodge added 9 and 8 points, respectively, for the Knights, who committed 25 turnovers, including 16 in the first half.
Crystal Lake South's bench play also included Garrett Bright's 8 points and sophomore center Wes Buckner's 7 points and 10 rebounds.
"We played pretty efficiently on the offensive end," LePage said. "Defensively, we forced a boatload of turnovers. You get a little concerned with the illegal contact. We got in foul trouble a little bit, but I think we're going out and playing like we expect to play. We got to continue to improve, though, bottom line."