Grayslake North prevails over rival Grayslake Central
This was their championship, their state tournament.
Due to COVID-19, the IHSA is not staging a state tournament to cap off the abbreviated basketball season that started in mid-January and is set to end next week.
And unlike some conferences, the Northern Lake County Conference is not having an end-of-season conference tournament for closure.
But the Grayslake Central and Grayslake North boys basketball teams had Saturday afternoon.
The crosstown rivalry game between the sister schools is always a big deal, in every sport.
But this year, the basketball game between Central and North meant a little more, because it was literally the most meaningful game on the calender.
Unfortunately, Grayslake Central was just coming off a 14-day quarantine and was struggling a bit to keep up as host Grayslake North ran away with a 58-40 victory. But both teams seemed to appreciate the chance just to go at it again. Especially against each other.
"This was like a championship game of Grayslake, and we took it," Grayslake North senior guard Tony Hines said proudly after scoring 20 points to help his cause. "This is definitely a game we focus on with the crosstown rivalry. They always try to beat us and we never want to lose to them."
After a sleepy first half in which the teams combined for only 8 points in the first quarter and the halftime score was a modest 21-14 in favor of Grayslake North, the tempo revved up in North's favor after the halftime break.
The Knights (6-3), who love to run the floor and push the ball, began the third quarter with a 16-2 run to take firm control. It seemed at times that Grayslake Central, which ended its 14-day quarantine of no team activities and workouts on Tuesday and had just three practices and one game to prepare for North, was gassed.
"Honestly, it's been tough getting back into the gym after 14 days of doing absolutely nothing," said Grayslake Central senior forward Zoel Martinez, who scored a team-high 15 points. "I wasn't able to go outside during the quarantine. I was in my room, trying to do workouts inside my room. I didn't have much space. All I was doing was running in place so that was tough.
"It was tough today for us (to keep up with Grayslake North). We didn't sprint back. The 14 days off really killed us.
"But it is still great to be back in the gym."
Grayslake Central, playing without leading scorer Amarion Coleman, who has not yet been medially cleared, did manage to get a win over Grant on Thursday in its first post-quarantine game. The Rams, who got 11 points from Dennis Estepp against North, drop to 3-2 on the season.
For Grayslake North, Hines was the only player in double figures. But the Knights got balance as eight players scored. Dominic Jankowski chipped in with 9 points while Joe Valera finished with 8 points.
"We started in this series at 0-9 against Central before we won the tenth game, but then I would say we've probably won two out of every three games against them," Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh said. "We're still trailing in the series overall, but we're getting there. Usually it's a very close game. This game was a little more lopsided, and the timing of it coming out of their quarantine is too bad. But you still know that you are always going to get a good game."