2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 1/16/2014 11:16 PM

Grayslake Central homes in on fine Fox Division record

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The road is becoming like a second home to Grayslake Central.

The Rams will be traveling again this weekend, this time to Dundee-Crown on Friday.

On the season, 14 games in, Grayslake Central has had just two home games.

"We have only eight home games on the season," Grayslake Central coach Brian Moe said. "Next year we'll have more at home, but this year, it's been a lot on the road."

The imbalance hasn't necessarily thrown the Rams off.

They are 7-7 overall but a sparkling 4-0 in the Fox Valley Fox Division. They are the only team in the Fox with a .500 record or better.

What next?

Jacob Vargo is keeping his fingers crossed that there's nothing else waiting for him in the wings.

As in injuries or illnesses.

The Grayslake Central senior super-sub hurt his back recently when he was going up for a layup and fell hard to the floor. He bruised his back so badly that he had to sit out nearly four full games.

Then, just when he was feeling better, the injury/illness bug struck again.

"Then Jacob got pneumonia," Grayslake Central coach Brian Moe said. "He got it on New Year's Day and he had a hard time breathing, so he was out again."

Vargo returned this week and is finally feeling more like himself. He had 6 points off the bench in a win over Crystal Lake Central.

Steady soph:

There's been no sophomore slump for Sam Ruhlmann.

In fact, the Grayslake Central guard has been as steady as a seasoned senior this season, quietly putting together games like he did against Vernon Hills when he scored 14 big points.

"He's kind of just one of those unsung players," Grayslake Central coach Brian Moe said of Ruhlmann. "He might not do anything spectacular. But he quietly goes about what he needs to do and all of a sudden he's got 14 points or he's making a bunch of big plays on defense or he's knocking down big jumpshots."

Making strides:

Round Lake's 23-point loss to North Suburban Prairie Division favorite North Chicago is deceiving.

The 3-12 Panthers had a 10-point lead after the first quarter and we're down by only 2 points at halftime. They just simply ran out of gas against a North Chicago team that features plenty of depth.

"We just couldn't keep up the pace with North Chicago," Round Lake coach Jeremy Fisher said. "But early on, we did a really good job of competing hard. When North Chicago made turnovers, we converted those to baskets, when they made runs, we responded right back. We took care of the ball and we weren't scared of North Chicago."

Meanwhile, senior guard Karnell Wright had a scary-good game. He scored 34 points against the Warhawks.

"Karnell was hustling the entire game," Fisher said. "He was getting out quick for fast break opportunities, he was attacking the basket, he hit a couple of big threes. He was a big ball of energy and the rest of the kids fed off that, especially in the first half."

Despite the loss, Round Lake is looking to build off of its effort in the North Chicago game.

"Even though it was a 23-point loss, our kids were excited by how they played, and how they competed in the first half against a very good North Chicago team," Fisher said. "We sent a message that we can play, too. Now, we've just got to do that for an entire game."

Stepping in:

Round Lake got a win over Harvard just before the holidays, in spite of being short-handed.

Make that really short-handed.

The Panthers were without Karnell Wright, who is averaging a team-best 22 points per game. Wright had a death in the family and was at a funeral.

"It was good that we were able to win a game without Karnell," Round Lake coach Jeremy Fisher said. "We had some guys step up."

One of those guys was sophomore Michael Green. He had 20 points in the Harvard game.

"Michael stepped up and filled that role of go-to player," Fisher said. "We told him that we're going to expect that out of him more and more."

Green is just a sophomore. But he's averaging about 10 points per game, which ranks second on the team.

"He's making such great strides from where he was last year," Fisher said of Green. "He's learning some really good lessons and we've seen him do a lot of different things. His outside shot has improved, he's getting to the basket better and he's been a nice asset for us on the defensive end. He really continues to grow."

MLK Day:

Playing in a Martin Luther King Day tournament is now en vogue.

At least five teams from the Daily Herald's Lake County coverage area will be in MLK action, including Warren, Mundelein, Grayslake North, Carmel and Lake Zurich.

Bye-bye bigs:

Just a few months ago, Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher wondered how he'd get enough playing time for all of his bigs.

He had a logjam in the post position, with 6-foot-8 Zach Wallace, 6-foot-6 Will McClaughry, 6-foot-5 Matt Bauman and 6-foot-5 Ryan Richman all deserving of minutes.

It was an enviable "problem," for sure.

"You almost never have that many big guys at one time," Pitcher said. "We were thinking we were pretty lucky. We would joke that other teams would want to trade us some of their guards just to get one of our bigs."

Now, Pitcher might have to take out a help wanted ad for bigs.

The Bears (10-7) are thin in the middle, thanks to injuries and illnesses. Of the four bigs previously mentioned, only McClaughry has been active in recent weeks.

Wallace suffered a high ankle sprain and has been out for three weeks. Bauman has been sick for the last month. And Richman is out with a torn ACL in his knee.

"It definitely changes how we play, even more so on the defensive end," Pitcher said. "We can't do some of the things we could do with those guys (such as alter shots).

"We've had to move some guys around, too."

To help McClaughry inside, Pitcher often uses 6-foot-4 senior Brad Kruse in the post. Kruse is normally a shooting guard.

"It helps that Brad is so versatile," Pitcher said. "The one positive thing we can do with a smaller lineup is that we can use our quickness and really pressure the ball."

The Bears can become vulnerable, though, against bigger teams. A 6-foot-6 post player from Lincoln-Way bothered Lake Zurich over the holidays. And Monday's matchup with Carmel features a test against 6-foot-10 senior forward Jack George.

Pitcher is hoping Wallace might be ready to return for that game.

"We could use a big player, or two, for that game," Pitcher said.

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