CRYSTAL LAKE – Maddie Drain knew the rebound was hers before her Prairie Ridge teammate, Sarah Le Beau, even set her feet to take a free throw.
Kicking herself for allowing Crystal Lake South to grab an offensive board off a missed free throw earlier, Drain realized the urgency of the Wolves’ situation - ahead by three on their home floor with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s must-win game against the Gators. So, as soon as Le Beau’s shot nicked the rim and rattled out, Drain was in the air.
The grab ignited a Wolves roster that long has waited to beat South twice in a single season. Drain kicked the rebound to the outside and the Wolves held on for a 55-50 victory against the Gators in Fox Valley Conference Valley Division play.
“My whole mentality was to get up there and get it because I knew I let them get one on me earlier,” said Drain, who finished with a triple-double – 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks. “I had to make up for that. I knew it would change the momentum, too, and I think it did.”
Prairie Ridge (14-6 overall, 7-1 FVC Valley) didn’t take a shot with its second chance. The Gators swarmed Le Beau, who had the ball on the outside, and the Wolves called timeout. South tried to force a jump ball right out of the break but was called for a foul instead.
Le Beau went to the line again and sank both double-bonus shots to ice the victory.
“That (rebound) gave us exactly what we needed,” said Le Beau, who led the Wolves with 17 points. “(Drain) was so into it the whole game. She did a great job.”
The Wolves went ahead, 9-7, in the first quarter on a Le Beau 3-pointer – a third chance shot that came thanks to two Drain offensive boards. Prairie Ridge built its lead to nine on Kirsten Voel-Pel’s transition layup, but a three-point play from South sophomore guard Chanel Fanter (team-high 17 points) cut the Gators’ deficit to six, 18-12, with five seconds left in the first quarter.
South forward Sara Mickow got past Drain for five quick points early in the second quarter to get the Gators (12-8, 4-3) within four, 21-17, and junior Hailee Massie’s 3-point play to end the first half cut the Gators’ halftime deficit to three, 27-24.
Fanter’s layup with 6:06 left in the fourth tied the score at 44, but the Gators couldn’t come up with the basket they needed to overtake the Wolves.
“(Drain’s rebound) is huge; you have to execute on a play like that and finish,” South coach Kyle McCaughn said. “But we had plenty of opportunities in the first quarter, we had a lot of good shots, and we just couldn’t get them to drop. If a couple shots fall, maybe we’re not in that position (at the end).”