The Grayslake Central boys basketball team pulled out a 49-47 win at Hampshire because the Rams adjusted when the initial plan didn't work with the game on the line.
With 20.6 seconds left in a tied Fox Valley Conference Fox Division contest, they inbounded to junior point guard Joey Mudd along the sideline.
According to sixth-year Grayslake Central coach Brian Moe, the first option on the play was for Mudd to come off a high ball screen set by sophomore Sam Ruhlmann and look for senior guard Charlie Anderson on the right side for a 3-point attempt. Hampshire senior Ryan Cork foiled that plan when he undercut Ruhlmann's high screen and denied the pass from Mudd to Anderson.
Instead, Mudd drove the lane. His penetration drew a Hampshire defender away from Grayslake Central junior Michael Benko, who found himself all alone under the basket for a layup with 8.8 seconds left when Hampshire's defense failed to rotate to him.
"I ended up slipping under a down screen," said Benko, whose 10 points off the bench included Grayslake Central's final 2 baskets. "I was open, Joey gave me the pass and I hit it."
"We had a little mental lapse on defense down there," Hampshire coach Bob Barnett said. "We didn't help the helper. They are coachable mistakes and they are correctable mistakes. Now we have to learn. We have to put it into action."
Hampshire had one last chance. Cork took the inbounds pass and quickly dribbled up the court. Once past the midcourt stripe, Cork cut left off a high screen from teammate Matt Bridges, but his contested 3-point shot caromed off the rim. Time expired before a putback could be attempted.
The victory snapped a 5-game losing streak for Grayslake Central (6-7, 3-0) that included losses at the State Farm Classic in Bloomington to Rock Island, T.F. North, Thornwood and Springfield. Their sixth win of the season surpassed the Rams' 2012-13 total of 5.
"Down at State Farm we played some really tough teams, some high-ranked teams in the state, and we competed with them," said 6-foot-4 senior Alex Lennartz, who led Grayslake Central with 13 points and 6 rebounds. "We knew if we were able to come back and keep the intensity we had, we should be able to do pretty good things in our conference. We're what, 3-0 now in conference? We just want to keep that going."
Barnett said Hampshire (5-9, 1-1) lost the game in the first half. The Whip-Purs missed 11 of their first 12 shots, including multiple layup attempts, as Grayslake Central took a 15-6 lead through one quarter.
Hampshire had drawn within 19-16 when Cork was whistled for a player control foul and a reach-in foul in a 10-second span, and responded with a gesture that drew a technical. Anderson sank all 4 free throws and Benko scored on a putback to complete a 6-point trip. Grayslake Central led 28-21 at halftime.
"We didn't lose this at the end of the game, we lost this at the end of the second quarter," Barnett said. "We lost our composure. They made 4 free throws and hit the shot, so 6 points right there they shouldn't have gotten. That's where we lost it."
The Whip-Purs did themselves no favors at the free-throw line either, missing 10 of 19 attempts.
Ruhlmann scored 12 points and grabbed 3 rebounds and Anderson finished with 7 points and 3 steals for Grayslake Central, which hosts Crystal Lake Central next Friday.
Bridges led all scorers with 15 points to go with 6 rebounds, a block and a steal, and Cork registered 14 points and 3 assists for Hampshire, which plays at Grayslake North next Friday.