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Article updated: 12/30/2011 11:55 PM
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Libertyville battles for third at Wheeling
 

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Libertyville battles for third at Wheeling

Libertyville did not want to compound one disappointment with another in the 34th annual Wildcat Hardwood Classic boys basketball tournament.

The Wildcats had already lost their hopes of playing for a tourney title. Now a chance to finish in third place seemed to be slipping away as Notre Dame opened a 6-point lead with less than four minutes to play Friday night at Wheeling.

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But seniors Ellis Matthews and Griffin Pils produced a happy ending. The all-tournament picks combined for a 15-5 closing burst that gave Libertyville a 62-58 victory over defending champion Notre Dame.

"It was a game we definitely needed to win," said Matthews, who scored 13 of his game-high 27 points in the first quarter. "Our goal was to try to win the tourney and we didn't want to blow this one. We needed to come out 3-1 so this was a big game for us."

Matthews' 3 with 1:26 to play off a Pils feed put Libertyville (10-3) ahead to stay at 58-56. Pils hit all 6 of his shots from the field and 2 free throws in the fourth quarter to score 16 of his 23 points.

"One of our goals was to get 10 wins before the new year," Pils said. "This was a good win for us against a good team.

"It was very disappointing after last night (65-49 loss to eventual champion Naperville Central) where we didn't play like we should have."

That didn't stop Libertyville from jumping to a 25-17 lead as Matthews scored 16 points.

But Notre Dame (11-4) tied it at 27-27 at halftime and led 53-47 with 4:09 left behind sophomore all-tourney pick Duante Stephens (23 points, 6 rebounds).

"No one wanted to give up and everyone kept fighting," Matthews said.

And Pils couldn't miss after making just 1 of 4 shots the first three quarters. He hit three running jumpers, a short baseline leaner and a pair of 3s -- the second after Luke Mathewson drew a charge -- to put Libertyville up 55-53 with 2:41 left.

"They took the little point guard (5-foot-8 Donte Stephenson) out at the beginning of the quarter and I started to attack more because he is a very good defender," the 6-4 Pils said. "I got in a rhythm I haven't really gotten in all tourney. I started feeling it."

Notre Dame regained a 56-55 lead on a 3 by Justin Halloran. Matthews countered with a 3 and 2 free throws after a steal and Pils sealed it with 2 free throws with 3.1 seconds left.

"The kids did a great job of just really wanting to win," said Libertyville coach Scott Bogumil, whose team took fourth last year. "The third-place game is always tough because you're feeling sorry for yourself, but they really stepped it up."

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