Warren's girls basketball team delivered under pressure, going 10-for-12 (83 percent) at the free throw line in the final quarter on Thursday night and handing Grayslake Central its first loss in the Blue Devil Tournament with a 42-37 victory in Gurnee.
"This was a big win, and wins have been few and far between for us," said Warren coach John Stanczykiewicz, whose team improved to 4-9 overall and 1-2 in the tournament. "We had a good chance to beat Carmel (Monday), but we didn't make enough plays down the stretch to hold on for the victory. This one, I think the experience of being close against Carmel helped us out.
"It was a big win against a quality team that's well-coached. (Grayslake Central), unfortunately, didn't shoot well. It was a good team win."
The Blue Devils had four players score in double digits, led by Hailey Leinart with 11 points and Kylie Nedelka, Kristen O'Brien and Sammi Jo Nixon with 9 apiece. All four were big contributors at the foul line in the final quarter.
"Making free throws was big," Stanczykiewicz said. "We've put a big emphasis on it this year -- as much as you can put an emphasis on free throws. With the style we play, we penetrate and we will get fouled. Part of the offense is converting our free throws, and in the fourth quarter we were able to do that."
Warren built an 8-point lead in the third quarter over Grayslake Central (10-4, 2-1) only to see it disappear in the fourth quarter.
The Rams' Morgan Dahlstrom, who finished with a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds, made a couple of free throws to tie the game at 32 with 5:16 remaining.
The Blue Devils, however, took over down the stretch, outscoring the Rams 10-5.
O'Brien hit a couple of key free throws in the final seconds for Warren.
"It was pretty much life or death at the end there," O'Brien said. "We had a close game against Carmel (earlier this week) and we wanted to get every point that was possible.
"In practice, we work on free throws a lot. We shoot 10 a day, then we add them all up. Every percent under 80 as a team, we have to run. We are getting really good at free throws."
The Rams had a game that wasn't typical for them. The struggled with their shooting and finished at 20 percent from the field. But they kept themselves in it to the very end.
"Warren played well and hit the shots they needed too," Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn said. "We struggled from the field. We had a lot of good looks, but didn't make them. You have to give Warren credit.
"We were able to tie them. In the last few minutes we forced a couple of turnovers, but we couldn't capitalize at the other end. It was one of those games. You have to tip your hat to Warren."
With two games remaining in the round-robin, Grayslake Central plays Deerfield at 4 p.m. on Friday and Carmel (11-2, 2-1) Saturday at 5:30 p.m. Wheeling is also 2-1 in the Classic after beating Palatine 38-35.
• Cassidy Kloss saved the day for Carmel Catholic once again, this time with a 3-pointer in the final four seconds on Thursday afternoon as the Corsairs escaped with a 53-51 victory over Deerfield in the Blue Devil Classic in Gurnee.
"I really didn't want to shoot it," said Kloss, who finished with 6 points. "I didn't want to shoot a three with that little time left. I heard from the bench to shoot it. I was wide open. I just prayed, and it went in.
"We were running through our offense and it wasn't set up for anyone in particular. I was the one that ended up being open, and I shot it."
Kloss sent Carmel into overtime with a 3 on Monday night against Warren. Carmel also ended up winning that game.
Kathleen Felicelli led the Corsairs with 18 points. Emma Rappe had 11 points and 9 rebounds and Leah Lach chipped in with 10 and 11.
Carmel (11-2, 2-1) trailed 20-9 against Deerfield (5-9, 1-2) early in the second quarter, and 24-19 by the break. The Corsairs chipped away against the Warriors and trailed 36-34 entering the final quarter.
Carmel took a 44-41 advantage on Felicelli's lay up with 4:48 left. But Deerfield pushed the lead out to 3 points on two occasions in the final couple of minutes before the Corsairs got close enough for Kloss to make her game-winning shot.
"We certainly know how to make things interesting lately," Carmel coach Kelly Perz said. "These last two games we're just doing enough to win. That's not going to cut it for the next two games that we have. We need to play with the same intensity that we showed in the fourth quarter for the whole game. We have to sustain that for 32 minutes."
Carmel will next plays Palatine at 4 p.m. Friday, followed by Grayslake Central at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.