Crystal Lake Central coach Rich Czeslawski was very adamant in his reasoning why the Dundee-Crown boys basketball team put an end to its 6-game losing skid during a 59-50 win over the Tigers Friday.
"We had no answer for Gabe Bergeron. He was by far the best player on the court," Czeslawski said of Dundee-Crown's 6-foot 8 center. "He's probably the best big man in the area and I know full well what we have and we had no answer for that kid."
Kind words from Czeslawski, who watched Bergeron in Fox Valley Conference action go unkind and unanswered around the basket on his home court. The senior finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block and 2 dunks, jams which came to be a theme at significant times for the Chargers (7-9, 4-3), who were looking to rebound after 2 losses by a combined 5 points.
"He's a senior and he has more confidence," D-C coach Lance Huber said of Bergeron this season. "He was aggressive going to the basket and his defense was a lot better than the night before. He got on the floor; he didn't do that the other night. Those are the things that we're trying to get our guys to do."
Bergeron, who showed he could shoot, pass, block and defend, poured in 12 points in the first half, including a one-handed flush with 4:26 left in the second quarter to give D-C a 31-19 lead. Bergeron helped the Chargers total 32 points in the paint as they played their best first half of the season thanks to a dominant effort in transition and a strict defensive plan. That combo led to a 65.5 percent clip on 19 of 29 shooting in the first 16 minutes, which gave D-C a 40-32 advantage at intermission.
"We knew they were going to run the floor so we tried to combat that and lock up and play team defense and push the ball," said Bergeron, as D-C finished at 52 percent shooting. "We boxed out pretty well and once we got those rebounds, we had guys busting out and we could get longer passes for those breakouts."
Busting out big time was guard Jordan Hairston, who posted 14 points and 4 rebounds. The sophomore collected 7 of Dundee-Crown's 14 steals, and when he wasn't causing havoc on the defensive end that created 14 points off turnovers, he was attacking the hoop.
And in particular, Hariston provided a jaw-dropper when he went back door late in the second quarter on a pass from Trayvon Hatcher. He nearly blew the roof off D-C's gym when he met a Central defender with a menacing poster dunk that ended a quick 11-4 run by Central (10-6, 4-3) and allowed the Chargers to finish the half strong.
"The previous play I got hit in the eye and he was playing me tight so I went back door," Hariston said. "Trayvon was able to get me the ball and I just got up there. Those are good energy plays we need to keep us going and I believe that pushed our hype and energy and able to get us the baskets we needed."
Dundee-Crown maintained energy throughout and kept supplying the momentum. Bergeron added another dunk to boot, a left-handed flush late in the fourth on a 3-point play with 3:22 left in the fourth for a 56-47 lead which kept Central at bay.
Jack Orndahl finished in double figures with 11 points while the Tigers, who shot 56.5 percent in the first half, were led by Deonta Dungey's team-high 17 off the bench to go with his 4 three-pointers. But after D-C established that it would double center Alex Timmerman (14 points, 8 rebounds) and cloud passes back out, it became a track meet as Central totaled 17 turnovers.
"I thought we played like a bunch of scared juniors," added Czeslawski, whose team had won 8 of its last 9 coming in. "To give 40 points up in the half because they're running up and down the floor and they're pressuring us ... if that's what pressure does to us we won't have much chance the rest of the way."