RICHTON PARK | Locked in a blow-for-blow battle with Rich South on Friday, it was Crete-Monee who took the most lumps late in the game.
And it spelled victory for the Warriors.
Crete-Monee was sent to the free throw line nine times in the fourth quarter and turned those trips into 12 points en route to a 58-50 victory in both teams’ Southland Athletic Conference and regular season finale at Rich South.
“Hitting those free throws was huge, pretty much helped us win tonight,” said Warriors senior Mark Conner, who knocked down four of his five attempts from the line in the final period and finished the night with 14 points. “We practice every day for these types of situations, and we were prepared.”
Crete-Monee (18-8, 5-5) nursed a 38-36 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but quickly trailed when the Stars’ Denzel Kimbrough sank a 3-pointer for a 39-38 lead. Crete-Monee responded though, going on an 8-0 move sparked by two free throws each from Conner and Edward Blackful to regain a 46-39 advantage.
Rich South clawed within five points on two more occasions, the last being a 50-45 deficit on Myles McCoy’s floater with 1 minute, 48 seconds remaining, but single free throws from Blackful and Marvie Keith pushed the Warriors’ lead back to seven and prevented any late dramatics.
“We converted what they gave us at the line, and that’s a big reason why we won tonight,” Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel said. “Give Rich South credit, they played hard and really fed off their crowd tonight. But it was just a matter of taking advantage of what they gave us on offense.”
For a stretch, it appeared that Crete-Monee wanted to give Rich South the game.
The Warriors spoiled a 13-point cushion late in the second half when Rich South (10-15, 3-7) reeled off an 18-4 run to turn a 29-16 hole with 5:22 left to play in the second quarter into a 34-33 lead with 4:15 remaining in the third. Senior LaQuon Treadwell cooled the Rich South jets however, nailing two free throws and a layup on consecutive Crete-Monee possessions to put the Warriors ahead again before Conner sank another free throw to make it 38-36 after three quarters.
“We just needed to slow the pace down and get them off of their game,” Treadwell said. “We started letting them take some shots, and they hit some, but once we turned it back on in the end, it was just a matter of us taking control, and we did that.”
Treadwell paced the Warriors with a team-high 15 points. Keith and Marquette Muhammad scored nine points apiece. Demitri Strickland led Rich South with 21 points.
Crete-Monee will now head into regional play on Wednesday at Marion.