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Maddy Arnold made it look so smooth and easy. Her Grayslake Central basketball teammate Morgan Dahlstrom did likewise, despite playing on an achy calf that had her in tears earlier in the week.
Funny, Arnold banked in a long 3-pointer to beat the first-quarter buzzer, grinning sheepishly afterward, while St. Charles North couldn't bank on any shot dropping in its nonconference road game Thursday night.
"I practice that," joked Arnold, whose 3 stretched the Rams' lead to four.
Arnold and her teammates were still smiling at game's end. Dahlstrom's 25 points, 17 rebounds and 3 blocked shots led the way in Grayslake Central's 65-49 win, which hiked the Rams' record to 8-3.
Junior guard Sam Novak paced St. Charles North (5-7) with 13 points (two 3s), while 5-foot-11 junior Nichole Davidson had 11 points and 11 boards for the North Stars, who shot just 22 percent (11 of 51) from the floor. The visitors were 6-of-41 shooting through three quarters and trailed 53-34.
"When you shoot 15 percent from the floor in the first three quarters, you won't win a ballgame, no matter who you play," St. Charles North coach Sean Masoncup said. "We could have played some school that's tiny. And then you miss 10 free throws in the first half (15 of 25). You're not going to win a ballgame."
Grayslake Central saw three starters get in foul trouble in the opening half, as St. Charles North aggressively took the ball to the basket. But the Rams were bailed out by their bench, which produced 25 points, including 18 in the first half.
Backup guard Quin Garbett scored 11 points for Grayslake Central. Arnold added 7, while Theresa Curtis sank 4 of 4 free throws in the second quarter in helping the Rams take a 37-24 lead into halftime.
"I think this was a really good game for our bench," said Arnold, who also grabbed 5 rebounds. "We had a lot of minutes, too."
Connor Eschrich, Kayley Larson and Juliana Frusolone also played strong minutes coming off the bench for the Rams.
"We played all 11 healthy bodies, and everybody on the team came out and contributed either scoring-wise or defensively," Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn said. "It was a true team effort in this one.
"That's what we talk about," he added. "We've said, 'As the season goes on, everybody on this roster is going to have to contribute at some point, whether it's tonight, the next night or some other time.' And today was the perfect example of that."
The last time Grayslake Central played -- which was last Friday against Vernon Hills -- Dahlstrom strained her right calf. Earlier this week, athletic trainer Glen Gerdes worked on getting the 6-1 senior back on the court.
"I think it was Monday or Tuesday when he tried to rub it out, and I was crying," said Dahlstrom, who wore a soft brace on her right leg. "Glen's helped me a lot, and he's definitely the reason why I got to play today.
"Glen's magical," she added, smiling.
It wasn't a magical night for St. Charles North.
Down 44-24 with three minutes gone in the second half, Masoncup pulled his starters and substituted in five new girls. Grayslake Central stretched its lead to 24, before 2 free throws by Sam Henry (8 points) with 3:14 on the clocked gave the North Stars their first points of the second half.
The visitors got as close as 11 midway through the fourth, but back-to-back buckets by Dahlstrom (11-of-15 shooting) put it away.
"You got to give them credit," Masoncup said of the Rams. "They're tall. They have some big, long girls. For whatever reason, it wasn't our night."