Crystal Lake South reaches Jacobs championship game
Crystal Lake South forward Zach Peltz admitted to experiencing some nerves as he stepped to the free-throw line with 19.6 seconds remaining.
All that was at stake was a trip to Jacobs' Hinkle Holiday Classic championship game, as the Gators were tied with Hoffman Estates.
South's coaches and teammates, however, had no doubt.
In the timeout before Peltz shot, Gators coach Matt LePage told the players they would play man-to-man defense after Peltz made his two shots.
"No doubt," South guard Cooper LePage said. "Z.P. had them down for sure."
Peltz swished the two shots, then the Gators came up with one more defensive stop on the other end for a 54-52 victory in Thursday night's semifinal at the Eagles' Nest. South (12-3) meets Grayslake Central (12-1) for the championship at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"It was just all of us sticking together," said Peltz, who hit four 3-pointers and led South with 16 points. "It was such a clutch game. That was such a fun game."
South missed on an opportunity to take the lead with less than a minute to go, but forward Cameron Miller came up with a crucial steal on the Hawks' ensuing possession. Miller passed to Peltz, who drew the foul.
"It was a crazy game," Matt LePage said. "We got down early and took a punch and we got up and delivered a couple counters. The way we closed the second quarter was massive. The way our press and zone bothered them, you could tell we were in a good spot there."
Peltz hit a 3, then Cooper LePage hit back-to-back 3s in the third quarter for a 33-25 advantage, the biggest lead of the game. The Hawks (8-5) were far from done though.
Hoffman Estates trailed 49-43 with 4:45 to go in the fourth quarter when 6-foot-9 DJ Wallace, who led the Hawks with 16 points, scored three times inside.
LePage hit another 3, but Trendell Whiting converted a three-point play to tie it at 52-52 with 2:29 to play.
"We just had to keep digging deeper, man," said Cooper LePage, who finished with 15 points, 11 in the second half. "They threw some punches, but we took them and we bounced back. Credit to our guys, man, a lot of guys stepped up in this game."
AJ Demirov added 12 for South. Whiting scored 11 and Adell Bosnjak hit three 3s and finished with 11 for the Hawks.
"A game like that really comes down to one or two plays," Hawks coach Pete McBride said. "Cooper LePage hit some ridiculously tough shots. We thought we made him work for everything he got. In a game like that it comes down to one or two of those plays."
After Peltz's free throws, Hoffman Estates took the ball to the frontcourt and called timeout with 7.6 seconds to go. The Hawks inbounded the ball, but South's defense made it tough for a good shot.
Whiting attempted a 3, but it bounced long off the rim and the buzzer sounded.
"That's a play that gives us any number of options, we were just looking for the best one," McBride said. "Any opportunity to get a touch to DJ would be ideal."
Peltz appreciated the positive vibes in the huddle before he made the winning shots.
"I'm not going to lie, I was pretty nervous," Peltz said. "Coach said after I make both of them we're going to go into man them up and we stopped them at the end. It gave me some confidence. The players believed in me, too."