CRYSTAL LAKE – The Crystal Lake Central boys basketball team came ready to play Monday in its home gym during the first evening of the Coaches vs. Cancer Thanksgiving Tournament, but it wasn’t quite enough.
The Tigers started fast and played with a speed that Carmel didn’t seem ready for, scoring six quick points. After the initial shock, both teams settled in and it turned out to be a grinding game in which Carmel would win, 57-55.
“I think that our guys played really tough there and we did some things that were good and the game also let us know what types of things we need to work on in practice,” Tigers guard Corban Murphy said.
Murphy led all scorers with 20 points and played a big role in the explosive style the Tigers like to run. He opened the game with four quick points and, after a short dry spell, returned to his scoring form and opened up the floor for his teammates in the process.
Center David Panicko and guard Jake VanScoyoc each added 12 points.
“I think that we are versatile enough as a team to play like that,” Central coach Rich Czeslawski said of riding various players during stretches. “It’s nice we don’t have to rely on one guy, and I hope that style of play can continue though the season.”
If Monday night was any indication, his team looks more than capable of handling adversity and adjusting to situations on the fly. The Tigers opened the second half with a 29-28 lead but saw that quickly evaporate as the Carmel offense poured in shots from both three-point range and in the paint.
The Tigers saw themselves enter the last period trailing 48-42.
The loss came on a basket made by Carmel’s Nickai Poyser with only 2.7 seconds to go after Central allowed just nine points in the final quarter and tied the score with less than a minute to play. Brad Knoeppel’s last-second heave didn’t fall after Poyser’s game-winning bucket.
“We just have to work on our defense,” Murphy said. “We were really pushing the ball on offense and that is what we wanted to do from the beginning but our defense was leaky. We are going to really work on that in practice this week.”
In the first game of the evening, McHenry fell to Hoffman Estates, 62-52. The Hawks enjoyed leads of 10 and as much as 17, but the Warriors made it interesting.
With 1:37 to play, McHenry shortened the lead to six and looked poised for a comeback but missed free throws and turnovers ended the mounting comeback.
“Going into halftime, I thought we had some strong momentum,” Warriors guard Shane Varvil said. “We played with them for three quarters, but our missed free throws at the end killed us.”
McHenry outscored the Hawks, 42-41, for the final three quarters but the slow start, scoring 10 while giving up 21 points in the first couldn’t be overcome.