CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake Central considered overtime an antagonist and held it in low regard after recent outcomes.
But the Tigers wanted to give that extra period a little hug and smooch after what transpired Saturday against McHenry at the Central Fieldhouse.
Central fought back from a seven-point deficit in the last 1:30 of regulation to force overtime. Then, junior guard Will Welder nailed the biggest shot of his varsity career as time was running out.
Welder took a pass from C.J. Lerum on the right wing a few feet in front of the Central student section and buried a 3-pointer for a 56-54 victory over McHenry in their Fox Valley Conference boys basketball game.
“To be honest, it didn’t feel real good off the hand,” Welder said. “But it was nice to see it go through. I have hit [buzzer beaters] before, but nothing quite like that. That felt pretty good. That was pretty exciting. I have a lot of friends there (in the student section,) and I was happy to see them after that shot.”
After his shot swished through, Welder stood on the court and yelled as the Tigers ran across the court and the student section mobbed him.
“It was great for Will, and it was great for the team,” Lerum said. “I knew Will was going to be there. They doubled me, and I saw him shoot it, and it looked good to me.”
The Tigers (14-10, 8-5 FVC) needed something like this for a lineup of mostly juniors, especially after overtime losses to Jacobs and Cary-Grove last week. Both times, they let leads slip away in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been looking for the kids to kind of show a ‘Hey, we are not going to lose this game attitude,’ ” Tigers coach Rich Czeslawski said. “You saw it today. Something just clicked, and they dug in. They were flying to the glass, knocking down shots, playing with no fear. It was really nice to see, and it was something we’ve been waiting to see from this group.”
Czeslawski said Welder took the losses to Jacobs and C-G hard.
“For no good reason, he really beat himself up after those two losses last week,” Czeslawski said. “He shouldn’t have; it wasn’t his fault. That’s the reason you coach, man, to see stuff like that. That’s a great story.”
McHenry (17-7, 9-3) had a 45-38 lead on Gavin Markgraff’s 17-footer with 1:50 remaining in regulation. Central’s Alex Timmerman, a 6-foot-9 junior, scored on a rebound basket, then hit a 3 on the next possession to cut the lead to 45-43.
Central held the ball as the seconds ticked off before guard Collin Freund drove the lane and scooped a layup that crawled over the rim. It was Freund’s only basket of the game.
“We’ve had a couple of tough losses recently,” Welder said. “We were able to pull together and finally decide we weren’t going to lose this one.”
There were five lead changes in overtime. The Warriors went up, 55-54, as Markgraff hit a 12-foot fadeaway over Lerum with five seconds remaining, and Central called timeout. Czeslawski designed a play for Lerum to drive toward the basket, figuring Timmerman would get double-teamed, which he was.
When McHenry went to double Lerum, it left Welder open for the game-winner.
“We were leaving [Welder] open all day, letting them double [other players] and challenging him to make shots,” Warriors coach Chris Madson said. “Then he hits that one when we wanted him covered. He hit it right in front of their student section. It’s a great high school shot. We’ve had that moment.”
“When you’re up seven with a minute and a half (left), it comes down to shot selection and understanding the score. At the end of the day, we had to play overtime. And overtime was good until that last shot.”
STAR OF THE GAME
Crystal Lake Central, jr., C
Timmerman, hit 10 of 19 field goals and led the Tigers with 21 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds. He hit a 3-pointer with 58 seconds remaining in regulation to cut McHenry’s lead to 45-43. He also had a basket in overtime.
5: Turnovers committed in the game by Central
AND ANOTHER THING...
Central forward Evan Cassell had a tough shooting game, going 0 of 6 in regulation, although he had three blocked shots and five rebounds. He hit a 3 to start overtime, then added a putback basket before he fouled out.
Crystal Lake Central 56, McHenry 54
McHENRY (54): Markgraff 8 0-0 21, Calabrese 1 0-0 2, Mohr 4 0-1 11, Breisch 3 1-3 7, March 1 3-5 5, Evans 4 0-0 8. Totals: 21 4-9 54.
CRYSTAL LAKE CENTRAL (56): Welder 2 0-0 6, Lerum 4 1-2 11, Timmerman 10 0-0 21, Cassell 2 0-2 5, Haviland 1 0-0 3, Dungey 4 0-0 8, Freund 1 0-0 2. Totals: 24 1-4 56.
McHenry 14 8 14 9 9 – 54
CL Central 14 11 6 14 11 – 56
3-point goals: McHenry 8 (Markgraff 5, Mohr 3), CL Central 7 (Lerum 2, Welder 2, Timmerman, Cassell, Haviland). Total fouls: McHenry 11, CL Central 11. Fouled out: Cassell.