PHOTO GALLERY: Rams Edge Knights In Final Two Minutes
Though the final score of 64-55 would indicate that the Rams were in the driver’s seat of this game, those who were there know differently.
The cross-town rivalry game was played in front of an SRO crowd that made it appear as if everybody in the town of Grayslake was inside of the field house at Central High School.
Both teams battled fiercely until the Rams came out ahead 64-55. The Rams now have control of the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division with a perfect 7-0 mark. The Knights are in third place with a 4-2 record.
The difference in the exciting matchup was the outstanding play by the Rams Tyler Smith and Savonte McWilliams. Smith scored 18 points and took down a number of big rebounds. McWilliams scored early and often in the first half.
North Head Coach Todd Grunloh said that despite the loss, he was happy with how his team competed.
"Normally, we have come into this gym and been unable to compete athletically with Central, but that was not the case tonight," Grunloh said. "We had it down to three points in the last two minutes, had several good looks at the basket, but couldn’t get the shots to fall. I mean, give credit to Central because they made their free throws when they had to. It was a great game and I am very pleased with the way my team played tonight."
The rivalry between the two teams is fierce, but friendly. Central junior Danny Reed said Coach Brian Moe told the team during practices last week, "It's North. Have fun. It's just like any other game. So come out, have fun...and beat them!"
Apparently, Reed and the rest of the team listened to their coach and did exactly as he had asked. "It was a fun game. It's why you play," said Reed.
They all knew what was at stake - town bragging rights and conference standings.
"We knew that we had to cover Casey (Boyle) and Jordan (Taylor) pretty well because they are two of their better players," said North junior Danny Mateling, who was all over Taylor defensively.
"I think our defense and rebounding was the difference in the end of the game," said Central's Reed. "When they missed shots, we were able to get the boards we needed."
"This was a great game and even though we came out on the wrong side of it, there is absolutely nothing for us to hang our heads for," said Grunloh. "I'm happy, but I'd obviously be happier if we had won."
"We've been really pumped for this game all week long," said North junior Danny Mateling. "We were coming off a great win over Crystal Lake Central and we were counting on our defense to slow Grayslake Central down."
Mateling did an outstanding job guarding Jordan Taylor, holding him below his season average.
"Danny Mateling brings it every game, every practice...He is just a solid all around player," Grunloh said.
Even the fans enjoyed the rivalry of trying to outdo one another. The North student cheering section was dressed in camo and passionately supported their Knights with their "freeze" moves. The Central fans were in white dressed as zombies with ripped shirts and fake blood.
The big rematch between North and Central is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 21 at North. This will undoubtedly be a well-attended game with non-stop, edge-of-your-seat, exciting basketball action by two of the Fox Division's finest teams.