CRYSTAL LAKE – For the past few weeks, Crystal Lake Central’s girls basketball team has played games and held practices only sporadically. Like so many teams with long lulls in action, the Tigers’ defense has reacted accordingly.
It was with that slight rust that Central began its game Saturday against Fox Valley Conference Fox Division foe Woodstock. But all the Tigers needed to polish up their defensive game was an awareness that their feet were moving slower than necessary.
As soon as Central found its energy, the Blue Streaks could not counter. After shooting their way through the first half, the Tigers scrapped their way through the second to secure a 49-37 victory against Woodstock.
“The defense really was key,” Central coach Paul Lichtenheld said. “The defense really wasn’t where it needed to be in the first half. We talked about that at halftime and made some adjustments, but we have to be ready to go. It’s a weird time coming off a long break and having finals and things. You’re trying to keep things light, but at the same time we have to be prepared.”
The Tigers (9-8 overall, 3-2 FVC Fox) led by five, 26-21, at halftime, thanks in part to Kelsey Schmitt’s hot hand behind the arc and three late second-quarter free throws – products of two Woodstock technical fouls that stole some of the Streaks’ momentum. Central capitalized right away in the third, rattling off 13 points, including two more 3-pointers from Schmitt (game-high 20 points) and seven points from forward Shannon Ellman (16 points).
Central’s defense stymied Woodstock, forcing the Streaks to settle for only four points – all from sophomore guard Brecken Overly (team-high 12 points) – in the third quarter.
“They came out strong on defense early, so we knew we needed to come out stronger,” Schmitt said. “I felt like we did that in the second half.”
“We started helping more on defense and on screens,” Ellman added. “And we needed to know where [Woodstock center Dakota Brand] was because she can hurt you.”
Having a limited post presence didn’t help Woodstock. Brand had to play strategically with four fouls, and the Tigers’ defense didn’t give the Streaks many chances outside.
Woodstock scored 12 in the fourth quarter – its best effort of the game – but couldn’t catch up.
“I thought we came out fired up and ready to play, but we missed our inside game,” Woodstock coach Marty Hammond said. “Brecken did a great job outside and Selena (Juarez) had one of her best offensive games (with 11 points) … but we just didn’t give enough when we needed to.”