CRYSTAL LAKE — The orange and white painted walls leading to the Crystal Lake Central boys basketball locker room is covered with inspirational quotes that convey messages ranging from philosphers to athletes about having heart and the will to succeed.
Though the messages are out in the open for all to see heading to and from the locker room, Tigers coach Rich Czeslawski is having a hard time finding some of those things on the court this season, specifically passion.
"When you lack a passion for something, it makes it uncomfortable for everybody and that seems to be the case right now," Czeslawski said.
"A lack of heart is a tough thing to overcome," he continued. "It's going to take fight and it's going to take the team deciding that we don't want to take this anymore."
Czeslawski and the players were visibly disappointed after a 71-50 loss to Fox Valley Conference Fox Division opponent Grayslake North on Friday night. The Tigers (0-15 overall, 0-2 FVC Fox) fell behind near the end of the first quarter and couldn't climb back despite a strong shooting night from guard Cavanagh Murphy.
The junior scored all of his team's seven first-quarter points and hit two 3-pointers in the second before teammate Jon Ryberg connected on a layup with 3:42 remaining in the quarter to spread the scoring.
While the insufficient offense was concerning, Czeslawski liked what he saw from Murphy, who finished with a team-high 19 points. The coach spoke to him Thursday about being more of a leader and go-to-guy on the floor.
Despite the loss, the Tigers had some bright spots including holding the Knights (2-7, 1-1) without a basket until the 3:20 mark in the first quarter, but there weren't enough solid stretches to build from as the Knights went on runs of 6 and 10 in the first half.
"There have been flashes all season," Czeslawski said, "but the bad flashes tend to outweigh the good and until that flips this is going to be the outcome we have."
Knights guard Bobby Krebs led all scorers with 22 points including six 3-pointers, four of which came in the second half. Dom DiProva added 13 points while Aidan Einloth scored 12 as the two took advantage of open lanes on basket cuts.
"We need to get our energy up in the game," Murphy said. "It's been really flat out there and it's quiet in the gym. It's not fun playing like that."
Murphy said he has been on teams in the past that didn't win many games but the effort was always there. This is new territory for him but feels that with a proper approach in practice and entering games in the right state of mind, the Tigers can start playing better basketball during the crucial conference schedule.
"Hopefully we don't get used to [losing]," Murphy said. "The big thing is energy and it will get us all going. We have to bring it extra and start bringing that energy from practice into these games and if we want it I think it can transfer."