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.
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."