St. Patrick ends Grayslake Central's season
The Grayslake Central boys basketball team came a long way from its 7-12 midseason record.
A 9-1 record since then gave the Rams a path to the Class 3A regional final at St. Patrick Friday night.
The fifth-seeded Rams saw their season end with a 63-51 loss to the No. 4 seed Shamrocks, now 20-10.
St. Patrick will play East Suburban Catholic Conference rival St. Viator at Grayslake Central Tuesday night in sectional play.
Grayslake Central (16-14), which never led, faced an uphill battle from the start trailing 19-11 after the first quarter and 29-23 at halftime.
"We had to use a lot of energy after falling behind," said Rams coach Kosta Kougias. "When we tied the game at 48 in the fourth quarter they made the free throws and our shots just didn't fall. We had to hit the glass but didn't. That was the turning point."
St. Patrick's Austin Freeman took the game over after Dillan Durnaniang scored inside with 4:54 left in the game.
Freeman, who earlier in the year set a record for 31 consecutive free throws made at the York holiday tournament, sank 6 free throws to break the tie.
Freeman then assisted Caleb Corro (9 points), who then hit a 3-pointer for a 57-48 Shamrock lead with 2:42 left.
"He was a tough player on both sides of the ball, " said Grayslake Central senior Antonio Crews, who scored 12 points. "This was a tough game. We struggled against their 1-3-1 defense."
The Rams were not able to stop the 11 3-pointers from the Shamrocks, who would connect whenever Grayslake Central would edge close.
Nick Cioffi, who scored 16 points behind Freemans 18 points, hit backbreaker points late in the fourth quarter on assists from Joe Fanning. Both Cioffi and Freeman had 5 rebounds.
"When Grayslake tied the game at 48," said St. Patrick coach Mike Bailey, " I told them that winning this game was not going to be easy. Winning a regional championship is not supposed to be easy. Some close wins in our 10-game winning streak led to our confidence."
"Freeman is a player," said Kougias. "He made things happen for them. We wanted a half-court game but when we didn't rebound our shots it led to transition points."
Freeman, who hit 13 of 14 free throws, knew in state tournament games they would be important.
"After they tied the score," said Freeman. "I knew I had to make the free throws when I went to the line in the fourth quarter. It's something I practice every day. I didn't play a very good first half and had to sit after picking up two fouls."
Coby Moe finished his career with 15 points and Daniel Guckenberger scored 11 for the Rams.
The Rams will have some good second-half season memories.
"After we lost to our rival Grayslake North," said Crews, "we came into practice the next Monday with positive energy. We bought into digging in hard at practice every day. I couldn't have finished my career with any better guys."