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The smile that Karnell Wright gave to Round Lake coach Jeremy Fisher at halftime probably paled in comparison to the one the senior guard wore at game's end.
Not that it lacked sincerity, but Wright couldn't stop smiling after the Panthers' 85-48 win over visiting Northtown Academy on Thursday night. And for good reason. He had just put on a third-quarter display that few high school basketball players pull off.
Wright had the right stuff, pouring in 20 points, including 13 in the final two minutes of the quarter, as Round Lake (4-15) broke open a tight game that the hosts led only 37-31 at the half.
"We said (during halftime) we need to pick up our intensity on the defensive end, and we need to do a better job of moving our feet," Fisher said after his Panthers won for the first time since Dec. 28. "We just picked up the intensity for the game, and Karnell did what Karnell does sometimes. He went off."
Wright finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals and 5 assists. Sharpshooting guard Michael Green scored 11 of his 20 points in the opening quarter, while 6-4 Mateusz Lopez added 12 points, including his second dunk in as many games, and 7 rebounds for the Panthers.
The 6-foot-1 Wright, who averages 20-plus points per game, had only two baskets at the break.
"I told him right before (the second half), 'Hey, this is your opportunity. Go out there and get it done,' " Fisher said. "He gave me a big smile and he was like, 'OK.' So he did."
Wright got going immediately in the second half, putting in his own miss to extend the Round Lake lead to double digits, and the Panthers kept coming. Their lead never dipped below double digits after Wright's hustle bucket, as they outscored Northtown Academy (7-10) by a 32-5 margin in the third.
Green's steal and layup extended the Panthers' lead to 49-32 with 2:52 left in the third. Then after the Pumas answered, the first of Wright's four 3-pointers in the quarter started a 20-2 run to end the third. His top-of-the-key 3 in the closing seconds had the hosts up 69-36 entering the fourth.
"I just let the game come to me," Wright said. "I was trying too hard (in the first half) and my team was just like, 'Slow down.' "
Wright's third-quarter points came fast, and the Panthers simply took it all in.
"It's fun to see a kid be able to have a performance like that," Fisher said. "It's something special."
"It just brings intensity to all the other players on the team," Green said of Wright's third-quarter explosion.
It was Green, a sophomore and second-year varsity player, who got the Panthers going early. He opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers and then hit his third shot from beyond the arc, all in the game's first three minutes.
"I just came out with confidence and let my shot come to me," Green said.
"I love his game," Wright said. "His game is good -- his shot. He drives. He's a good player."
Fabrizzio Ramos and Ketan Patel led Northtown Academy with 18 and 11 points, respectively.
The Panthers' Rayshawn Bommon added 9 points coming off the bench, and Jashanin Lear (4 points, 5 assists, 4 steals) also played aggressively for Round Lake, which snapped a five-game losing streak.
"It's good to get that win," Fisher said. "We've been dying for one. We came close (Wednesday night, 62-56 loss to Wauconda). Hopefully this builds some momentum, so we go into Saturday against Lakes and get another (win)."