With 20 days off and only a few days of practice, Crystal Lake South girls basketball coach Kyle McCaughn wasn't sure what to expect from his team during Saturday's Fox Valley Conference Valley Division matchup with host Cary-Grove.
The 13-year veteran didn't need to worry.
Jumping off to an 11-2 start, the Gators held off a valiant Cary-Grove comeback, then outscored the Trojans 11-5 in overtime in posting a 55-49 win.
"We were mentally tough and resilient," said McCaughn. "We really reached down deep in the overtime and came up with a last wind."
Using only six players because of injuries to Lauren Gauger and Carly Nolan, the Gators (11-6, 3-1) connected on 5 of their first 6 shots and held an early 9-point lead.
The Trojans battled back on 3-pointers by Chrissy Sopchyk and Katie Barker to slice the Gator lead to 3, 11-8, with 6:55 left in the first half. But South, led by 6 points from Sara Mickow and a 3-pointer from Chanel Fanter, ended the half on an 11-3 run and led 22-11 at intermission.
The Trojans sliced the lead to 22-15 on a 15-footer from Jen Pilut and a layup by Barker in the first 29 seconds of the second half.
Cary-Grove (12-7, 2-3) continued to whittle away at the Gator lead and tied the game at 44 on a 15-footer by Barker with 22 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Barker's layup with 3:42 left in overtime gave the Trojans their first and only lead of the game, 46-44.
It was short-lived, though, as the Gators scored 10 straight points to take a 54-46 lead with 52 seconds left. Fanter and Rachel Rasmussen each hit 3-pointers and Mickow connected on a pair of layups off assists from Gaby DeJesus as the Gators were able to pick up a key win.
Mickow paced the Gators with 19 points and 19 rebounds.
"We were a little rusty at times because of the 20-day layoff," said Mickow. "We were mentally strong when we had to be."
Fanter led South in scoring with 21 points while DeJesus had 10 assists.
Barker scored 25 points with 5 3-pointers for the Trojans. Karissa Wilczynski scored 9, all in the second half.
"I can't fault our effort," said Cary-Grove coach Rod Saffert. "We changed our offense in the second half and executed better. South is a tough team to defend. They have a lot of offensive weapons."