Boys Basketball: Willie Conner leads Crane past Ridgewood

Updated: December 27, 2011 8:52PM

Willie Conner scored 10 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws in the final seconds, to lead No. 15 Crane to a 67-62 victory Tuesday over Ridgewood and a spot in the small-school championship game of the inaugural Romeoville Christmas Classic.

“I had to just step up, be a leader and finish,’’ said the 6-4 senior forward, who was 12 of 17 from the field to help Crane shoot 56 percent (24-of-43) for the game.

“Conners is one of the pieces to our success,’’ Crane coach Chris Head said. “When he’s playing well, that doesn’t always mean he has to score a ton of points.’’

Issaiah Hayes had 16 points and Courtney Thomas contributed eight points and six rebounds.

Free throws were crucial to Crane (5-3) down the stretch. Conner was 2-of-2 from the line with 11 seconds to play for a 66-62 lead. Timothy Triplett made two free throws to put Crane ahead 64-60 with 1:18 left.

Guard Andy Mazurczak led Ridgewood (6-4) with 25 points and Pete Mroz had 23. Ridgewood trailed only 48-47 going into the fourth quarter.

“They came out and played hard,’’ Conner said. “The second half we just had to come out and play harder.’’

“Ridgewood is a good team,’’ Head said. “They shot the ball well, they defended, they played extremely hard. We needed a win more than anything.’’

It was Crane’s first actual game in the tournament after a first-round forfeit victory Monday over Harper.

“The most important thing is it’s not always X’s and O’s, just go out and play hard,’’ Head said. “We find that difficult some times.’’

Plainfield Central, a 63-49 winner over Willowbrook, will play Romeoville for the large-school title at 8 p.m. Wednesday. Romeoville defeated Glenbard South 73-64 in the second semifinal.

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