WOODSTOCK – Crystal Lake Central senior guard Kelsey Schmitt didn’t need much space.
Shooters want the ball with the game on the line, and it was no different for Schmitt on Wednesday against Woodstock North. The Thunder held a one-point lead with two minutes left, but Schmitt, always a dangerous threat behind the arc, got off a 3-pointer with a defender closing in. Despite getting fouled, Schmitt’s basket was good and her ensuing free throw for a four-point play gave Central the lead.
Those were the last points the Tigers needed as Woodstock North was held scoreless for the final five minutes of the game in Central’s 52-44 Fox Valley Conference Fox Division win.
Schmitt scored a game-high 19 points, all in the final three quarters.
“We were just trying to look for open shots as a team,” Schmitt said. “We wanted to get the lead up. ... We looked to drive in the lane and kick it out if we don’t have a shot.”
Woodstock North (5-11 overall, 0-3 FVC Fox) fought back from a nine-point deficit in the second quarter. The Thunder had a 37-35 lead in the fourth, but the Tigers (8-8, 2-2) made two layups in the first 24 seconds to regain the lead. There were seven lead changes in the quarter.
The Thunder went ahead, 44-43, with 3:10 left in the game on Haley Ahr’s two free throws. Those would be Woodstock North’s final points of the game. Schmitt’s four-point play a minute later was a momentum killer for Woodstock North. The Tigers converted 5 of 8 free throws in the final 1:30 to seal the win. Ahr finished with a team-high 17 points, while Darling and Ashley Jones had nine points each.
“She’s really finding her niche of when she needs to score and when she needs to find her teammates,” Central coach Paul Lichtenheld said of Schmitt.
Thunder coach Mike Lewis was disappointed with his team’s defense to close the game. Entering the fourth quarter, he felt if his team held Central to 10 points it would win the game. However, the Tigers scored 17 points with the Woodstock North defense suffering a few lapses.
Central senior Evelyn Youel gave Woodstock North fits all game, especially on the offensive glass. Youel hauled in nine offensive rebounds and finished with 16 points. There were times Lewis was clearly exasperated with the Thunder’s inability to keep Youel off the offensive boards, particularly in the first half when she helped Central build a nine-point lead by keeping possessions alive.
“[Youel] is a player that every coach would want to have but nobody wants to coach against,” Lewis said. “She’s always been like that. ... It wasn’t always that we didn’t go get her, but she had a little bit more [effort] every time.”