CRETE | After Friday night’s Southland Conference victory over Rich Central, Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel was looking for a defibrillator.
“My heart's still racing,” Cappel said. “I expected us to have some rust but I didn’t expect Rich Central to come out like that.”
The Olympians gave conference leaders Crete-Monee (10-4, 3-0 Southland Athletic Conference) all it could handle for over 30 minutes before the Warriors finally put the game away.
After falling behind 11-3 early, the Warriors cut the lead to three at 19-16 only to watch Rich Central pull away again.
Every time it appeared that Crete-Monee had stolen momentum, the Olympians (4-10, 0-3 Southland Athletic Conference) would find a way to take it back and led by five at halftime.
Mike Nelson, who led all scorers with 25 points, sparked an 11-0 run for the Warriors with eight straight points, but the Olympians responded with a run of their own to close the quarter with the lead intact.
“We started really slow and missed too many easy baskets,” Nelson said. “We didn’t expect them to come out like that, at halftime coach just said to pick up the defense and that got us some easy shots.”
That was the story for the first three quarters. Every time Crete-Monee got back into the game Rich Central would stretch the lead.
“I give a lot of credit to them (Rich Central),” Cappel said. “It was a crazy week, with the weather we only practiced two days and we just seemed to be walking through it. Rich Central played hard and smart tonight.”
But midway through the fourth quarter, just when it looked like the Olympians were ready to pull off the upset, Crete-Monee found its groove.
Behind Tyler Williams, who scored 13 of his 21 points in the final stanza, the Warriors shook off the rust and outscored the Olympians, 23-7, in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
“I just told them this is your gym, you’re in first place in the conference, and you’re making them look good,” Cappel said. “A win's a win, I tried some different combinations on the floor in the first half but I had faith that the guys would pull it out.”
The win lets the Warriors hold on to a share of the top spot in the Conference setting up a showdown with co-leaders Bloom Township next Friday night.