McGruder's improbable 3-pointer leads Lakes to another exciting win
Ethan McGruder just wrapped up a memorable weekend in style on Saturday afternoon.
The Lakes senior guard buried a falling-down 3-pointer with 0.2 seconds left to carry the Eagles to a thrilling 69-68 victory over Wauconda in Northern Lake Country Conference boys basketball action in Lake Villa.
On Wednesday, McGruder, a second-year varsity player, had a key 3-pointer and free throw in overtime to lift the Eagles to a comeback win over Antioch. In that game, Eli Roberts played the savior, hitting a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left in regulation to force overtime.
Two games. Two amazing comebacks for the Eagles.
McGruder's heroic turn came again on Saturday, helping the Eagles (7-8, 4-0) erase a 15-point third-quarter deficit to remain atop the conference standings. McGruder inbounded the pass from midcourt, tossing it to a teammate, before getting the ball back in his hands. He dribbled toward the sideline, jumping in the air and swishing the game-winner while drifting closer to the sideline and tumbling to the ground.
"There was the first foul at half-court, which allowed us to inbound near the sidelines," McGruder said. "I was in-bounding it, and my dad and uncle were sitting right there. I usually tune that stuff out, but when it gets late in games, both of them have been basketball coaches. They kept telling me that I would get fouled again, and I had to get a shot off. I took a few dribbles, was looking to get it inside for a quick basket or something, but I had a foot of space and just took the shot.
"I jumped and (the defender) got a hand on it, and I thought it was going to be over, but I somehow I got a good grip on it. It felt good. I couldn't see if it went in or not, but I heard it. That felt nice. We just had a huge rivalry win (on Wednesday) and got the job done today. We were the underdogs coming into this, and we got it done."
McGruder did all his scoring in the second half, tallying 8 points in the third and 15 in the final quarter, including burying 3 3-pointers, to finish with 23 points and spoil a big game from Wauconda senior guard Griffin Daun (27 points, 11 rebounds).
Lakes coach Chris Snyder called McGruder's heroics the ideal way to end an amazing week.
"It's been a great week, two games where we had some guys hit some big shots late," Snyder said. "In this one, it was good because Wauconda is a great team and can score. Ethan has done that for us all year, stepping up and hitting some big shots. It was a really exciting end to the week.
"It was one of those games, where we just seemed to turn it on late. We kept fighting and got a chance and took advantage when needed to. This is what we've seen from this group."
The Bulldogs (10-3, 2-1) were nearing the finish line of a solid road victory before coming undone in the final minutes. The 6-foot-3 Daun had a game to remember, hitting highlight-reel shots from long range, gliding to the basket for lay-ins, hitting a teammate for an assist while falling out of bounds, and draining 2 free throws with 7.9 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 68-66 lead before McGruder stole the show. Justin Drobnik and Nick Brinias each finished with 11 points and Garrison Carter had 9 points for the Bulldogs.
"We battled the whole game and maybe didn't play to our full potential," Daun said. "I played good, able to get a lot of buckets from steals and transitions, but it was still a tough loss for us."
Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager added: "They made plays down the stretch and we didn't. We had some bad possessions where we didn't value the ball. You have to tip your cap when a kid makes a shot like that. Our kids are hurting a bit after giving up an 11-point lead in the fourth quarter."
The Eagles were able to overcome a jittery start -- 9 first-quarter turnovers -- by relying on their defense. McGruder made several key steals, while Tyson Dewey (16 points) and Brock Marino (14 points) all delivered vital plays on both ends to spark the Eagles.
"We're constantly playing good defense and our coaches tell us everyday on the whiteboard that defense is going to win us games," McGruder said. "That was a big thing tonight."