Stretched out on the bench, Aidan Einloth figured he was done for the night.
The Grayslake North sophomore got to work early Saturday night and helped the Knights build up a cushy 23-point lead over visiting Crystal Lake Central through three quarters.
Having scored 23 points of his own by that point, Einloth began the fourth quarter on the bench, ready to cheer on the reserves for the rest of the way.
Good thing he didn’t get too comfortable, or remove his shoes.
Grayslake North wound up rolling to a 60-40 victory over Crystal Lake Central, but Einloth and some of the other starters and key players had to jump back in when things got interesting with about four minutes remaining.
“I wasn’t expecting to go back in,” Einloth said. “But I think Coach (Todd Grunloh) got nervous. It got a little too close.”
The scrappy Tigers cut a 25-point deficit to 15 points with 3:48 remaining, thanks to a string of 3-pointers. Having seen a big lead evaporate before his eyes before, Grunloh was quick to be proactive. He sent Einloth and point guard Matt Taskovic right to the scorer’s table.
“We got a little sloppy and you never want to have to put players back in like that, but 15 points with about four minutes left after it was 25, it was a little too nerve-wracking for me,” Grunloh said. “Last year, we had a 24-point lead against Johnsburg with five minutes left and we lost in overtime.
“So I’m always a little shaky in those situations anyways. I always have that game in the back of my mind. It’s always what I think about when we have a big lead. That (Johnsburg loss) was pretty bad.”
Of course, this ending was much better for Grunloh and the Knights. Einloth didn’t score in the fourth quarter, but he and Taskovic settled down their teammates and helped the Knights run off some clock. They eventually left the game again for good, and the reserves closed out.
Grayslake North, which was playing without starting guard Dom Diprova, improves to 8-14 and 6-3 in the Fox Valley Fox Division. Diprova, a starter who averages about 13 points per game, has been out sick the last few days.
“We have only a few home games left so we really wanted to get a key victory at home to keep us in second place in the conference,” Einloth said. “Since we were missing Dom today, I knew I would have to take a bigger role and be more aggressive.”
Grayslake North, which was up 13 points at halftime, also got 10 points from reserve guard Brandon Tepper, 9 points from Drew Piggott and 7 points from Bobby Krebs.
The Knights wanted to set a decisive tone early. They figured they could wear on a Crystal Lake Central team that is already weary.
The young and inexperienced Tigers entered the game with just two wins. They began the season 0-20. They are now 2-21 overall.
“We just stressed that if you get on them quick, we might see them fall back into that 0-20, here-we-go-again kind of thing,” Grunloh said. “The whole key was trying to get on them early and we did that. Aidan got us going right off the bat, in transition, he hit a three. He does it all.”
Kenny Vesely did all he could for Crystal Lake Central. He finished with 15 points and was the only player on his team in double-figures. He nailed two big 3-pointers as the Tigers cut down their deficit in the fourth quarter.