Two rapidly improving boys basketball teams put on a wild show in the Consolation A championship game of the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs Saturday.
South Elgin overcame a 16-point fourth-quarter deficit and a 36-point performance by Cary-Grove junior guard Jason Gregorie to win 83-80 in overtime, thereby claiming fifth place in the tournament with its fourth straight victory.
"I think this was a huge turning point for us because they are now starting to believe we have what it takes to win basketball games," South Elgin first-year coach Matt Petersen said of his players. "You can talk about X's and O's all you want, but until you get that attitude you're not going to win tight games. We're starting to get that attitude."
Cary-Grove (6-7) led 56-40 early in the fourth quarter following a pair of Gregoire free throws, but South Elgin (8-6) extended its pressure full court and caused 6 turnovers in the period. The Storm outscored the Trojans 29-15 in the fourth, led by 10 points apiece from sophomore guard Matt Smith (28 points) and senior guard Matt McClure (23).
"They create a lot of chaos around the court and we did not handle it very well," Gregoire said. "(Smith) really got on a roll and they started hitting a bunch of jumpers. We did not do a very good job of contesting threes and stopping penetration and kick outs."
McClure gave South Elgin its first lead since the second quarter, 65-62, with his 3-pointer from the left side with 2:25 remaining in regulation, but Cary-Grove didn't fold.
Gregoire drained a coldblooded 3-pointer from the right wing to tie the game 65-65 with 2:03 left and he later fed a bounce pass to Michael Krich on a 2-on-1 as Cary-Grove reclaimed the lead, 67-65, with 1:21 left. Gregoire's 2 free throws with 28.4 seconds to play put the Trojans ahead by 4.
After South Elgin's Julian Lynch answered with 2 free throws at the other end, the Trojans had a chance to make it a 2-possession game at the free throw line but missed both attempts.
"We missed some free throws down the stretch," Cary-Grove coach Ralph Schuetzle said. "It never should have gotten to overtime."
Smith was fouled on a putback attempt with 2.5 seconds left and calmly stroked both free throws to tie the game at 69, sending the game to an extra four minutes.
"Even being down 16 points we battled back and we kept playing as hard as we could," Smith said. "We just battled back and kept playing hard. I love that about our team."
South Elgin's shooters stayed hot in overtime. Smith connected on a pair of 3-pointers and McClure sank another. The Storm took a 5-point lead with 19.2 seconds left when Smith spotted Julian Lynch cutting along the baseline and fed him for a three-point play.
"On that cut I'm looking to finish hard and strong and make the layup when I get that opportunity," said Lynch, who scored 2 baskets in overtime and finished with 9 points.
The Trojans sank 10 3-pointers, including 4 straight on their final 4 possessions of the second quarter to take a 35-31 halftime lead, but the Storm shot 14-of-32 from 3-point range.
Tyler Szydlo scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half for Cary-Grove and Krich had 11 points, thanks to a trio of 3-pointers.