Boelens' effort -- at both ends -- keys Grayslake Central win
Another good shooting night by Ethan Boelens, in the end, didn't distract the Grayslake Central senior guard from doing what he loves to do and might do best.
The Rams' shooter can be a nightmare for an opposing shooter.
"As good of a shooter as Ethan is," Grayslake Central coach Brian Centella said, "he's a better defender.
"He's an incredible defensive player."
Take Saturday night.
Boelens helped Grayslake Central secure a 49-44 nonconference win over host Lake Zurich when he blocked a potential, game-tying 3-pointer by Bears sharpshooter Will Tucker from the top of the key with 15 seconds left.
"He came off a double screen and I got hammered on the second of them," Boelens said. "I just didn't give up, tried my best to at least contest it, and it just worked out in my favor."
"I think the second one might have been a moving screen even," Tucker joked. "It was perfectly executed."
Tucker, who was one of 11 seniors honored on Senior Night, couldn't believe Boelens blocked his shot.
"I thought I was wide-open," said Tucker, who scored 6 points. "I came off that screen and I was getting giddy. I was so excited."
Instead of erasing a deficit that reached 9 points when Boelens sank a 3 with 6:10 left in the fourth, Lake Zurich (7-18) dropped its sixth game in a row and 11th in 12 games.
Grayslake Central improved to 15-11, rebounding from Friday night's loss on its home court to Wauconda in the teams' battle for first place in the Northern Lake County Conference. Boelens scored a team-high 15 points, Grant Hardy added 13 points and 8 rebounds and Amarion Coleman contributed 11 points.
Boelens shot 5 of 6, all from three-point range.
"My teammates got me open," said Boelens, who scored 18 points on six 3-pointers in overtime loss to Zion-Benton at Buffalo Grove over Thanksgiving. "My point guard Dillan Dumanlang would draw guys and then kick it to me, which really helped."
Boelens' unselfishness at the offensive end is another reason why his coach loves him.
"He's more concerned about the team shot," Centella said, "than his shot."
Joe Galuppo, who usually starts, led Lake Zurich with 15 points. The senior guard knocked down three 3-pointers in a row -- in a 2-minute, 22-second span -- late in the opening half to pull Lake Zurich even at 24-24. They were the only 3s Galuppo took all night.
"His energy's been great the entire year, but I think he's playing more confidently recently," Bears coach Terry Coughlin said of Galuppo. "He's our energy guy. We love having him out there to start a game because we feed off that."
Boelens' fourth 3 of the half with 39 seconds left had Grayslake Central up 27-24 at the break.
Galuppo's steal and layup with 2:28 to go in the fourth got the Bears within 45-44. But 2 free throw apiece by Dumanlang (with 25.7 seconds left) and Coleman (11.6 seconds) sandwiched Boelens' big block.
"He closed that down and made a great play," Coughlin said of Boelens. "We might still be playing if he doesn't. Credit to our guys for executing and credit to (Boelens) for making an even better play."
Coughlin started five seniors who normally don't start, and all of them contributed in the opening quarter, as the Bears trailed only 17-13 heading into the second. Henry Nagel, Brady Orton and Joey Lococo each sank a 3-pointer in the opening eight minutes, 6-foot-7 Adam Hagen buried a foul-line jumper, and Tony Pezzella contributed a steal.
"I'm really proud of this senior group," Coughlin said. "I love all of these guys. They played their butts off tonight."