CRYSTAL LAKE – Within only a matter of minutes Monday night, Rich Czeslawski had gone from spinning a plastic water bottle between his hands to pacing the sideline with his hands tucked into his pockets.
His pace was steady and his facial expression remained unchanged. Considering how young his Crystal Lake Central boys basketball team is, patience will be required.
The Tigers’ start against Antioch had been solid. The finish of a 59-44 loss on the opening night of the Coaches vs. Cancer Tournament at Central had also been encouraging. But during a third quarter when Central managed only five points and when its only field goal came off a Cavanagh Murphy steal with just fewer than 10 seconds remaining, the learning curve that will likely define the Tigers early on had clearly started.
“Consistency and the speed of the game are going to be issues for us,” Czeslawski said. “But the things we just talked about are there are two things that can we always control. How good of a teammate we are and how hard we play.”
At times, Central (0-1) demonstrated the potential that exists as the Tigers put their plan for moving on following the graduation of six seniors into action. But in other stretches – namely in the second and third quarter – the Tigers’ inexperience, both in scoring and keeping up with the speed of the game, allowed Antioch to capitalize and begin to pull away.
But that’s when the Tigers, led by Murphy’s 11 points, began to live up to the promise Czeslawski believes exists once some of his team’s inconsistency begins to fade away.
But until then, there will be nights like Monday.
“That was the first varsity experience for most of the guys that were out on the court,” Czeslawski said. “When that’s the case, you’re in unknown territory. You don’t know how to act, you don’t know how to react and so it’s a learning experience.
“This whole season is going to be a learning experience. But we’re going to get better.”
But how long the initial growing pains last will go a long way in determining how soon the Tigers start to take shape.
“We definitely need time to figure it out,” senior Kenny Vesely said. “But it should come quick. I hope.”
After trailing by as many as 15 points, back-to-back 3-point field goals by Vesely and Murphy got Central back to within 10 early in the fourth quarter. Central got as close as nine but was never able to put together enough stops to get any closer the rest of the way.
But it was a start.
“(The fourth quarter) just showed what we’re capable of doing,” senior guard Kevin Peisker said. “We just need to put an entire game together and I think we’ll be fine.”