CRYSTAL LAKE – Marengo sophomore Zach Knobloch was primarily responsible for the Indians’ quick start with his hot shooting, but gracious enough to deflect the credit.
“It was stops on defense first, that really ran into our offense,” Knobloch said. “We pushed it in transition and pounded it down low. Our big guys were finding me open for shots, I just shot with confidence.”
That confidence carried over as Marengo, one of the area’s hottest teams, handed Crystal Lake South a 55-40 loss in a nonconference boys basketball game Wednesday night at Gator Alley.
Knobloch hit seven of Marengo’s first nine points and finished with a game-high 17 points as the Indians (17-10) won for the seventh time in their last nine games.
“With any team, you try to not let them get going early,” Indians coach Will Benson said. “Their confidence tends to get higher. We all are comfortable within our roles and just continue to improve. We battled and competed and made a couple more shots than they did.”
Marengo jumped to a 17-7 lead, but the Gators (14-10) had their best sequence of the game with an 11-0 second-quarter run.
“I thought we could get back in it with our pressure [defense] and our ability to string shots together,” South coach Matt LePage said. “It just didn’t happen for us.”
Marengo got a layup from Dustin Rondorf, a 3 from Knobloch and a short jumper from Koty Kissack to close the half with a 24-19 lead. That was as close as the Gators got the rest of the game.
“It’s about constant rebounding, picking each other up, making the extra pass and looking out for each other out there,” Indians guard Max Kunde said. “If it’s not someone’s night, we pick each other up. It’s been like that all season.”
Marengo is assured its first winning boys basketball season since 2002 and has a very realistic shot at 20 wins for the first time since 2000. The Indians likely will be the No. 1 seed in the Class 3A Woodstock Regional. Voting for the coaches started Wednesday, finished Thursday, when they will be announced. The Indians are the only team of the six in that regional with a winning record.
Knobloch hit 6 of 11 field goals Wednesday with three 3s. Center Andrew Volkening added eight points and seven rebounds and all nine Indians who played scored.
“We’ve been doing a lot of little things well defensively,” Benson said. “Our hands are pretty active and we contest shots fairly well and we’re trying to limit everybody to one shot.”
South has proficient 3-point shooters and had some chances against Marengo’s 2-3 zone, but the Gators hit only 26.5 percent (13 of 49) from the field. Kyle Bartusch led South with 13 points and Collin Wagner added 10.
“Our offense affected our defense,” LePage said. “Our energy was low on that side and Marengo hit shots and played well. We just didn’t hit shots. It’s not for a lack of trying, it’s become a mental game out there and you could see it in some of these guys’ eyes.”