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When 6-foot-3 guard Tyler Crater displayed his leaping abilities with a putback dunk early in the first quarter for his first points of the game, you knew it could be a special Saturday for the Hampshire senior.
Then he went on to score 20 of his game-high 26 points in the first half, leading the Whip-Purs to a 64-53 Fox Valley Fox win over Grayslake North in Hampshire’s first home game in over a month.
“Tyler, we could do a lot of things with him,” Grayslake North coach Todd Grunloh joked. “He’s as good as advertised and sometimes we just had to tip the cap with some of those shots he made.”
During a fast-paced first half, the Whips saw a 25-19 second-quarter lead disappear after an offensive rebound on a free throw led to a Knights three-pointer. A Hampshire turnover then led to an easy basket the other way to tie the game at 25.
However, Hampshire (15-3, 4-1) quickly responded when junior Ryan Cork nailed a jumper ahead of nine straight points from Crater, who hit two threes and connected on a three-point play, helping the Whips to a 38-33 halftime lead. Crater finished with three three-pointers in the half and five total.
“Me and Ryan (Cork) coach a seventh-grade team so we had some games this morning and I was out there shooting, and I think that got me ready to go,” said Crater, who finished 8-of-10 shooting in the half and also noted that his dunk was the first of his career.
Crater wasn’t alone lighting up the scoreboard as the Whips had difficulty all game containing senior AJ Fish, who finished with a team-high 25 points, including 14 in the first half. Still, the Knights (11-6, 2-2) were unable to get much scoring outside of Fish and Danny Mateling (14 points).
“Fish made some tough shots. I thought Mike Dumoulin did a pretty good job defending,” said Hampshire coach Bob Barnett. “He was making floaters and fade-aways. He’s a good player and very athletic.”
Playing at a much slower pace in the second half, Hampshire’s defense shut down the Knights, holding them to just four third-quarter points as the Whips took a 48-35 lead into the fourth.
“We actually started getting stops in the third quarter too,” Grunloh said. “We knew (Crater) wasn’t going to be able to go 8-for-10 in the second half. We just couldn’t get anything going offensively.”
Hampshire put the game away midway through the fourth when Crater came off the bench to nail a three on a set play, giving the Whips a 55-39 lead.
“In the second half they came out with a new defensive plan and that really opened up things for me to pass the ball to my teammates and we were able to score that way,” Crater said.
Senior Shane Hernandez added 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for Hampshire, while sophomore Matthew Bridges scored six of his eight points in the fourth quarter.