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Zion-Benton has the athletic ability to take over a game at any point and that’s exactly what they did against Crystal Lake South Thursday in the Jacobs Holiday Classic.
Holding just a one-point lead midway through the third quarter, the Zee-Bees went wild scoring 21 straight points en route to a 62-48 victory.
“The reason why we got the win was because we really came together as a team,” said Zion-Benton’s Gabe Ramirez, who led all scorers with 18 points. “When we play like a team, I don’t believe that there’s anyone who can play with us.”
Ramirez came off the bench and was instant offense for the Zee-Bees.
“That’s my job, to come in the game as a shooter,” the 5-11 senior guard said. “But without my teammates giving me the ball, I wouldn’t have made any of my shots.”
Zion-Benton (11-3) led 16-8 after the first quarter and 29-24 at halftime.
Crystal Lake South (4-6) pulled within 33-32 after a running layup by Alex Bartusch with 4:59 to play in the third but it was all Zee-Bees after that.
Five different players scored for Zion-Benton as they finished the quarter with a 17-0 run for a 50-32 lead heading into the fourth.
Two more field goals to start the fourth extended the run to 21-0 and the Gators couldn’t dig out of the hole.
“It doesn’t matter who scores, as long as people do their job to help the team score,” said Zee-Bees’ 6-9 junior forward Chris Moragne, who chipped in 14 points. “It doesn’t matter if one individual scores or everybody scores.”
Highly touted junior Milik Yarbrough had another solid game for the Zee-Bees, contributing 14 points.
Austin Rogers led the way for the Gators with 16 points while Max Meitzler added 11.
“If we don’t get back they get easy layups and with that kind of team, they thrive off that energy,” Rogers said. “They all played good and we didn’t really make shots.”
Crystal Lake South, Zion-Benton and Elk Grove all finished Pool IV play with a 2-1 record and the Gators won the tiebreaker (free throw percentage - 76 percent to Zee-Bees’ 68 and the Grenadiers’ 56).
That allows Crystal Lake South to advance to the four-team championship bracket of the 16-team tournament. The Gators face Barrington tomorrow night at 6:00 in the semifinals.
Zion-Benton takes on Rockford Jefferson in Consolation B play at noon.