Grayslake North turns it around on Grant
It was just as Todd Grunloh and his players expected.
The Grayslake North boys basketball team figured on Thursday that a big, comfy 20-point victory over Grant wouldn't be in the cards this time around.
Earlier this month, the Knights rolled into Fox Lake and pounded Grant by 21 points for a statement Northern Lake County Conference victory.
"We knew there was no way (Grant) would play as bad as they did last time," said Grunloh, the Knights' head coach, referring to Grant's 24-percent shooting percentage and 30 turnovers. "I'd like to say that we did a lot to make that happen in the first game, but I also know they had an off game as well.
"We knew they were going to come out tonight and show us that's not who they are."
Grant did just that, and did not get routed, did not shoot abysmally and did not roll up anywhere near 30 turnovers. In fact, the visiting Bulldogs came out strong, and had a lead for most of the game.
And yet, the result in Game 2 of the series was the same as Game 1, a Grayslake North victory. This time the Knights hung on for a close-shave 62-59 NLCC win.
Grayslake North ends the regular season with a 13-14 record and an 8-6 mark in the NLCC. Grant closes the regular season at 13-14 overall and 9-5 in the league.
"Our discipline right now (is the problem)," Grant coach Wayne Bosworth said. "We give away too many possessions. Discipline falls back on me. We're not a disciplined enough team to win the close ones right now, so it's my fault."
Grant senior guard Michael Huff had three chances within the final 10 seconds to make a 3-pointer that would have tied the game, but his shots were just off. And Huff, who scored a team-high 17 points for Grant, sunk three 3-pointers earlier in the game.
"We were trying to (set screens for the last-second 3-point attempts), but it didn't work out the way we wanted it to," Huff said. "I felt like we were really focused going into the game, but about halfway through, we kind of lost that focus because we were up and had a lead and we got too comfortable and that's why it turned out the way it did."
Grayslake North's poise was also a factor.
This time around, the Knights found themselves down by as many as 10 points. Grant went up 42-32 in the third quarter after a Huff 3-pointer.
But Grayslake North kept plugging away, mostly riding the backs of the Connolly brothers, who combined for 13 third-quarter points to cut the Knights' deficit to just 2 points (51-49) going into the fourth quarter.
On the game, the Connolly brothers combined for 48 of Grayslake North's 62 points. Senior James Connolly had a game-high 25 points on three 3-pointers and sophomore Ryan Connolly was right behind with 23 points.
"We've had many, many times this season where we've been down," James Connolly said. "But we've fought back. We talked about that in time outs. We've been in this position and we haven't given up. We knew we had to pull through and play as a team and that's what helped."
Ryan Connolly gave Grayslake North the lead for good (60-59) when he converted a Grant turnover into a layup with about 90 seconds left to play. He then made 2 free throws to help ice the game.
"I definitely expected Grant to come out with fire because they know they're a better team than when we played them the first time," Ryan Connolly said. "I knew they'd come out ready.
"But we can play with anyone and I don't think our (record) shows that. We're a much better team (than a sub-.500 record)."
The Connolly brothers were Grayslake North's only double-figure scorers.
In addition to Huff, Grant also got double figures from Torren Curry, who scored 15 points on three 3-pointers, and from MJ Smith, who scored a career-high 13 points.
"I felt good. I was just attacking and I made a couple of layups and free throws and I just wanted to keep attacking," Smith said. "We made some mental mistakes. We have to make better decisions on the court, better passes. I think we'll come out more focused (for the tournament). We really want it."