Taking risks is OK.
Getting beat 1-on-1 is OK.
Not all the time, but occasionally.
That's the message Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager has been trying to get across to his players lately.
He wants to ramp up the Bulldogs' full-court and half-court defense ahead of the state tournament, and he says that in practice, as his team is learning how hard and how far to push, he's OK with some defensive misfires.
"We've gotten on the kids to ramp up their ball pressure in practice to practice that," Luetschwager said. "We want to be scrappy. We want the kids to get out of their comfort zones in practice, to take some chances, to play a little quicker.
"In practice we're trying to encourage them to be more aggressive, even if they get beat."
The hope is that by the time games roll around, the Bulldogs will have learned from their mistakes in practice, but will still be willing to take aggressive defensive risks at the same time in order to create the kind of pressure that will lead to turnovers.
Wauconda certainly had its defense ramped up for Grayslake Central on Tuesday, and it helped to pave the way to a 51-43 Northern Lake County Conference win.
The Bulldogs, who improve to 10-18 overall and 7-7 in the NLCC, forced 15 Grayslake Central turnovers, many while pressuring the ball. Grayslake Central drops to 10-16 and 7-7 in the league after starting out 5-0 in the NLCC.
"The key to us getting the win was all of us hustling for the ball on defense," Wauconda sophomore forward Donovan Carter said. "That's what our whole name of the game is, pressuring teams. We work on it in practice. We try to pressure the ball, get rebounds and stay focused on defense."
Carter was also focused on offense. He poured in a game-high 17 points, including three 3-pointers.
"I think I shot pretty well," Carter said. "But there is always room for improvement."
The Bulldogs also got double-figures from Andrew Nolan, who had 10 points.
Grayslake Central was led by Jack Spalding, who had 14 points. Chris Thomas added 10 points for the Rams.
"We made a good run in the second quarter, but they (out-hustled) us a little bit," Spalding said. "This is a tough one. We had a good game against Grayslake North and we really wanted to get a two-game win streak going into playoffs and we wanted to be playing our best basketball. Unfortunately we couldn't."
Grayslake Central, down by 7 points midway through the fourth quarter, saw its deficit inflate to as many as 11 points late in the game as Wauconda put together a 6-0 run to ice the victory.
"In the first half, we had untimely turnovers," Grayslake Central coach Kosta Kougias said. "And in the second half, we really struggled to get into any rhythm and they did a good job of giving us fits with their defense. Their defense gave us a hard time tonight."