The Cary-Grove girls basketball team knows that in order to be successful as the season approaches state tournament time, it will have to get offense from more than just junior scoring machine Katie Barker in order to win.
And while Barker did score 21 points Wednesday night, other Trojans had to step up for C-G to survive a hard-fought battle with improving Dundee-Crown.
They did just that, and Cary-Grove made the free throws down the stretch it needed to make to come away from Carpentersville with a 51-42 Fox Valley Conference Valley Division win.
"They're much improved and they wanted it more," said Cary-Grove coach Rod Saffert of the Chargers. "They got the loose balls and they got the rebounds. Luckily we got some free throws at the end and we got the win."
Barker scored 16 of her points in the first half, including hitting 4 3-pointers, as the Trojans (13-8, 4-4) built a 24-16 lead at the break.
But Dundee-Crown (6-18, 1-7) came out with renewed enthusiasm and focus in the second half and a defensive effort led by sophomore Kayla Lawrence held Barker without a field goal and to only 4 shot attempts for the final 16 minutes.
The Chargers also stepped up their game on offense, outscoring the Trojans 22-13 in the third quarter to grab a 38-37 lead going into the final period. Senior Emily Michalski scored 10 of her team-high points in the third, including a basket off her own steal with four seconds left that gave the Chargers their first lead since early in the first quarter.
D-C held a 40-39 lead after 2 free throws from senior Frankie Scarpelli with 5:02 left in the game but 2 free throws by senior Sarah Kendeigh at 4:23 and a layup by junior Chrissy Sopchyk with 3:25 left gave the Trojans the lead for good at 43-40. Michalski hit 2 free throws to draw D-C within 1, 43-42, with 2:26 to play but that would be the last points for the Chargers as Cary-Grove made 8 of 10 from the line -- including 5 of 6 by Barker -- in the final 1:12.
"We had our opportunities," said D-C coach Sarah Miller, whose team shot just 13 of 47 from the field and missed 14 shots in the paint. "We talked at halftime about doing a better job on Barker after we let her dictate the first half. We forced their other girls to score and we did a nice job on (Barker) in the second half."
Seven other players cracked the scoring column for the Trojans, with senior Abby Glaysher scoring 7 points including a key 3-pointer in the third quarter. She also had 5 rebounds and 3 assists.
"We know teams are going to overplay Katie," Glaysher said. "We know we have to step up when they put double teams on her. When we have open shots we have to be ready. We look for Katie to be a screener for us then and we've been practicing that a lot."
Junior Karisa Wilczynski added 6 points for the Trojans, who were 17 of 44 shooting and outrebounded D-C 34-31, but also committed 20 turnovers, 15 in the middle two quarters.
Lawrence had 10 points for Dundee-Crown and junior Jesania Laboy grabbed 9 rebounds. After turning the ball over 12 times in the first half the Chargers had just 4 in the second half, including none in the third quarter.
"We battled and I'm much more proud of the heart I saw tonight," said Miller, whose team lost to Cary-Grove by 21 points on Dec. 3. "Even though the loss stings that's the kind of effort we want. We've been talking about playing with more emotion and more heart. Even though the end result wasn't what we wanted tonight we did do that. Give all the credit to Cary-Grove. They're a talented team. We're getting better but we still have a lot of room to grow."