For a team that is supposedly a "work in progress," Warren is working pretty well. Most of the time.
First-year coach Ryan Webber knows that change takes time. His system and philosophies are replacing an approach that was in place at Warren for nearly two decades with former head coach Chuck Ramsey.
Webber expects mixed results for a while, and on Friday, he got them within the context of a single game.
The Blue Devils were tough at times defensively at Lake Zurich, but sometimes their offense didn't look sharp. Yet, despite the inconsistencies, Warren picked up a 47-33 North Suburban Conference Lake Division victory and moved to 4-2 on the season.
Lake Zurich drops to 3-3.
"There are things we just have to work through. We are definitely a work in progress," Webber said. "We're still trying to figure out how to practice hard, how to get consistencies with things, we're still looking for lineups, so we're rotating a lot of guys in.
"Things are different for our players this year. It's a brand-new system and that's hard for them. What's hard for me is that we don't look like my teams have looked yet, but we're getting there."
Webber is counting on seniors such as Aarias Austin, who played on last year's supersectional team, to bridge the transition with leadership and experience.
"We've got a long way to go, but we're doing OK," said Austin, who finished with 8 points including two 3-pointers. "I know for me, I just need to lead, I need to do what needs to be done for this team. If we need a rebound, I need to go get it. If someone on our team is down, I need to pick him up. I need to help our guys keep their composure.
"It's a different role for me than last year, but it feels good."
The Blue Devils were feeling good for most of the second and third quarters. They held a lead through most of the second quarter and took a 25-18 cushion into the locker room at halftime. The margin increased to 9 points by the end of the third quarter and then to as many as 10 points early in the fourth as the Blue Devils held Lake Zurich to just 4 third-quarter points.
Meanwhile, Austin, James Betori (game-high 12 points) and Dre Von Hill all had big baskets as Warren was building up its lead.
But about midway through the fourth quarter, Lake Zurich finally came to life on both ends of the floor.
The Bears forced back-to-back Warren turnovers in their fullcourt press to cut the margin to just four points (35-31) with about two minutes left.
"We used our pressure defense to get up into the passing lanes and get some steals and easy baskets," said Lake Zurich senior guard Brad Kruse, who finished with a team-high 10 points. "But we didn't keep going with it. We let down our effort (in the final minute) and we stopped being aggressive enough."
Warren then went into ball-control mode and forced the Bears to foul. The Blue Devils hit six straight free throws in the final minute as part of an 8-2 run that put them back firmly in control. Adrian Deere (11 points) had 6 points during that stretch.
"When we got those (two straight turnovers in the press), that was finally the first time in the game where we really got our energy going," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "We've had problems with that so far this year. We have to bring energy all game long. Defensively, we did OK to hold Warren down in the 30s for most of the game but we just couldn't score when we needed to. We were just kind of standing around and not moving very much. I was disappointed that we just weren't more aggressive."