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Big brother being big brother, a smiling AJ Fish playfully punched his sister in the shoulder before she gave a media interview.
"I taught her everything," AJ joked.
No worries. Maggie Fish can take it. She doesn't mind the physical contact, either.
The Grayslake North junior guard took the ball aggressively to the basket all night against visiting Grayslake Central on Thursday, and her willingness to welcome contact has become increasingly part of her game. Her confidence at the varsity level continues to grow, too, as evident again by her performance in the Knights' 46-41 win over the Rams.
She's providing a perfect complement to the tall-and-small duo of 6-foot-1 Brittney Thibeaux and 5-5 Kendall Detweiler.
"It's been more consistent of late," Grayslake North coach Nate Flannery said of Fish's assertiveness at the offensive end. "She's been getting it done for us. She looks to score now, and it helps us a ton. It prevents people from trying to lock in on two. It's hard to guard three."
Fish totaled 11 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, as Grayslake North improved to 10-6 and 3-1 in the Fox Valley Fox Division. It was a performance that University of Virginia lacrosse player AJ Fish -- the former three-sport high school star who's home on break -- could be proud of.
In the last month, Fish has produced games of 21 points against Prairie Ridge and 20 vs. Vernon Hills.
"Coach always tells me to drive and take shots when I'm open," said Fish, whose younger siblings Abby (freshman) and Nick (fifth grade) are also good athletes. "He tells me to keep my confidence up, so I've been keeping it up."
Grayslake North never trailed against Grayslake Central (11-6, 3-1), which shot just 28 percent (15 of 54) from the floor and went just 9 of 19 from the foul line. The Rams made only 1 of 11 shots in the opening quarter in falling behind 12-3.
"I thought we got off to a really poor start shooting," Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn said. "(Grayslake North) played good defense, but we rushed our shots. We had some good looks that didn't go."
Grayslake North typically plans man-to-man defense, but the Knights employed a zone against the Rams to try to neutralize center Morgan Dahlstrom and keep point guard Carson Sparkman from penetrating. Dahlstrom finished with game bests of 23 points and 11 rebounds, but she didn't hit her first field goal until just 2:03 remained in the first half.
"We haven't played zone all year, and the main reason we did it was because it allowed a couple of people down inside on (Dahlstrom)," Flannery said. "Plus, it makes it easier to double her. She's an outstanding player."
After a drive by Fish midway through the second quarter, Grayslake North was up 22-8. Grayslake Central finally started taking the ball to the basket and scored the final 10 points of the quarter to get within four at halftime, but the Rams couldn't sustain the momentum into the second half.
"We cut it to two in the fourth quarter, and then we went back to rushing and making long passes that we didn't need to," Ikenn said.
Just about every time the Rams got close, Fish responded with a drive and bucket. After back-to-back drives by Sparkman pulled the visitors within 29-26 with 2:17 left in the third, Fish countered with a basket. A free throw by Maddy Miller (8 rebounds, 3 points) cut Grayslake North's lead to 31-29, but Fish's drive put the Knights back up by four heading into the fourth.
"It's such a fun game with the whole crowd and everything," Fish said. "We usually don't have a big turnout. So when we do, it's nice to show the crowd what we got."
Grayslake Central trailed 33-31 early in the fourth. But back came Grayslake North, as a 9-0 run included a post-up by Thibeaux, 3-pointer by freshman Sidney Lovitsch (5 points, 7 rebounds), drive by Fish and layup by Detweiler.
Thibeaux led the Knights in scoring with 14 points, while Detweiler added 10, including 2 free throws that stretched the home team's lead to 46-34 with 49 seconds left.
"That's awesome to see three of them (Thibeaux, Fish, Detweiler) in double digits," Flannery said. "A lot of people try to focus on Kendall and Brittney. When Maggie steps up and scores like that, it makes it difficult to defend us."