Carter, Wauconda shoot past Grayslake Central
The calm, cool demeanor that Wauconda senior Donovan Carter exhibits on the basketball court is just one of many reasons why Carter is the Bulldogs' all-time leading scorer for the boys basketball program.
So just before tipoff at Grayslake Central Friday night in a battle for first place in the Northern Lake County Conference, that calm, cool image Carter portrays was put to the test.
During warmups, Carter landed awkwardly on the foot of a teammate, twisting his left ankle.
Was there panic?
"We had a backup plan," Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager said.
No backup plan was needed as Carter, who was held to just 8 points the first time the Rams and Bulldogs played, scored 13 of his game-high 18 points in the first half to lift the Bulldogs to an impressive 54-45 win. The victory vaults Wauconda (18-6, 9-2) into first place all by itself with just three conference games remaining in the Bulldogs' quest for their first conference title since 1979.
"(Carter) didn't look like a guy playing on a bad ankle," Luetschwager said. "His shot looked like it always did."
Carter was hot early. He nailed 6 of his first 7 shots from the floor, then closed the first half with a long 3-pointer to give the visitors a 29-19 advantage into the break.
"It was shooting pain in my ankle," Carter said of the warmup mishap. "All I kept saying was 'oh my god, not today.' "
Wauconda received contributions up and down the lineup but none bigger than what junior Nicholas Bulgarelli brought. Bulgarelli chipped in 14 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. A fairly typical performance from one of Wauconda's emotional leaders.
"Everything we need, Bulgarelli is right there," Luetschwager said. "He is one of those rare athletes where nothing seems to ever get him off kilter. When he wants to get to the rim, he is going to go and make big-time plays."
Grayslake Central (14-11, 8-3), which lost for only the second time in nine home games this season, fell behind by as many as 13 points twice in the second half. The powerful inside game of senior Grant Hardy that yielded 18 points in the matchup last month never got started.
Hardy had just one bucket, a dunk, that cut the deficit to 41-34 at the start of the fourth quarter. But Wauconda kept the big man from getting ball as he took just 4 shots all night.
"Grant had such a good game against them the first time and he has been playing so well of late," Grayslake Central coach Brian Centella said. "We knew (Wauconda) would come and key on him. But we also knew that it would lead to other opportunities and we just didn't make shots tonight."
The Rams cut the lead to 47-40 with 3:26 left on one of four 3-pointers from Ethan Boelens, but an old fashioned 3-point play from Bulgarelli shot the lead back to 10 and secured the huge road win for the Bulldogs. Boelens was the only Grayslake Central player to hit double figures. He led the Rams with 12.
"Yesterday at practice we just told the kids that we are a really good basketball team and to come out and do what we do," Luetschwager said. "Anytime you're going for a road win against a really good Grayslake Central team, it's a great feeling and the kids are really excited."