Host Dundee-Crown stayed within 8 points of the undefeated Crystal Lake South boys basketball team for a half, but the unselfish Gators shared their way to a 70-48 victory with a big third quarter.
CL South opened the second half on a 14-2 run that fattened its lead to 20 points and the Gators were never threatened again in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division opener for both short-handed teams. The Gators took the floor without 6-foot-9 sophomore center Josh Friesen (flu), while the Chargers played without their leading scorer, senior guard Cordero Parson (coach's decision).
The third-quarter surge by CL South (8-0, 1-0) was ignited by senior guard Collin Wagner, whose putback allowed the Gators to again set up the full-court press that helped force 7 first-half D-C turnovers. A subsequent steal and breakaway layup by Wagner quickly made it a 12-point game.
The Gators moved to a 15-point lead on their ensuing possession when senior guard Steve Thomas penetrated the lane, drew the defense to him, then sent a pass to senior guard Caleb Johnson in the left corner for an open 3-pointer and a 44-29 lead.
"Our press got a lot of steals, everyone was unselfish and everyone got touches," said Johnson, who finished with 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting, including 3 of 3 from 3-point-range. "Everyone got in on the action."
Following a timeout, CL South leading scorer Austin Rogers scored on a putback, then on a layup, the latter courtesy of senior forward Chris Mahoney's no-look assist. Johnson capped the 14-2 run with a 3-point play, giving the Gators a 51-31 lead with 3:03 remaining in the third quarter.
"It was a fight, they would have stopped it," Dundee-Crown coach Lance Huber said. "They came out and they went to another level and we didn't get there. Until we learn to get there, that's going to happen. They really dominated us in the third quarter. There's really no other way to say it. We were down 8 at the half; I looked up and it was 20. They have a nice team and they're playing well."
Rogers scored 17 of his game-high 21 points in the first half. Of his 8 rebounds, 4 were on the offensive end and led directly to second-chance points.
"I really want to be aggressive and grab it and score," Rogers said. "I'm good at getting rebounds on the offensive end. I like to fight in there and get some offensive rebounds and get some easy buckets."
The Gators won the rebounding battle 29-23 and turned the ball over only 11 times. They shot 30 of 59 from the field (50.8 percent) and held Dundee-Crown (2-6, 0-1) to 36.7-percent shooting overall (18 of 49). Six different Gators registered at least one assist, including 3 by Rogers.
"Rog hit the open player when people were collapsing on him and he made them pay," CL South coach Matt LePage said. "When they were doubling down on Austin we took advantage of that and opened the game up with Caleb and Collin. And we got some steals, too, to get in transition. I liked the way we passed the ball. When we hit open shots, I thought it was mainly because the pass was on point and we cashed them in. I thought our defense led to our offense in the third."
Senior Nick Munson scored 14 points and junior Juwan Stewart scored all 9 of his points in the first half for the Chargers, who don't play again until next Monday at 12:15 p.m., when they take on Team Englewood in the opening round of the Elgin Holiday Tournament.
Wagner had 11 points and 2 steals and junior forward Kyle Bartusch had 5 rebounds and 3 points for CL South, which faces Zion-Benton at the Jacobs Tournament on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.