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Jim Ackley was granted the night off as Mundelein honored him before the Mustangs' home game against Lake Zurich for his 50 years as the varsity boys basketball scorekeeper.
The affable Ackley still had his courtside seat, as he was stationed at the end of the scorer's table. But it was probably a good thing he could just enjoy the game, for it was a scorer's nightmare.
The Mustangs wore red T-shirts reading "Ackley 50" on the back during warm-ups. They then made sure they gave their longtime scorer a gift other than the plaque and framed No. 50 jersey he received during a ceremony following the sophomore game.
Sean O'Brien had a double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Cliff Dunigan added a season-high 22 points and 7 boards, as Mundelein held off pesky Lake Zurich 74-65 in a frenetic North Suburban Lake Division contest Tuesday.
"We can score more than that," Mundelein coach Dick Knar said. "We missed too many layups and easy shots."
Lake Zurich sophomore guard Mike Travlos scored a career-high 20 points, including 13 in the third quarter, when his three 3-pointers helped the Bears cut a 38-24 deficit at halftime to 53-48 entering the fourth. Senior guard Jack Arends (two 3s) added a career-high 16 points coming off the bench, while senior guard Ryan Roach and junior guard Brad Kruse (two 3s) tossed in 12 points apiece.
"Mundelein likes to push the pace," Arends said. "We're a fast team, and we're working on pushing it up in traffic in practice."
Lake Zurich (3-4, 0-2) might have been playing too fast in the opening quarter, as the Bears committed 11 of their 25 turnovers in spotting the hosts a 14-5 lead. Despite keeping the score close until the end, they played catch-up the rest of the night.
"We want to get up and down," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said after his Bears produced a season-high point total, after scoring just 33 points in a loss to Warren last Friday. "We got a lot of guards. We got some good shooters. That's the only way we can neutralize our size disadvantage, although our guards are good-sized. But we don't have two post players."
Arends made an immediate impact when Pitcher called on him early in the second quarter. The thin 6-footer canned a 3-pointer and then had a steal and driving layup. He added another bucket during a surge that got Lake Zurich within 22-20 midway through the quarter, before Mundelein closed the half with a 16-4 run that included a one-handed dunk by O'Brien in transition.
Arends scored 7 points in the fourth to help keep Lake Zurich close before Mundelein stretched its lead to double digits with less than two minutes left.
"He's real crafty, and that's how he was able to get to the basket tonight," Pitcher said of Arends. "He doesn't have explosive quickness, but he's one of those lanky, 5-11, 6-foot kids who's got all arms and legs. He knows where to be on the floor."
"I'm just trying to play my role in the offense and provide a spark off the bench," Arends said. "We made a good run at the start of the third quarter, but they're a good team. We showed a lot of fight. We'll improve."
Mundelein (3-4, 1-1) enjoyed a 59-49 lead three minutes into the fourth quarter on a pullup jumper by guard Nate Williams, who was playing his first game of the season. But Lake Zurich once again fought back.
"Every time we got a good lead, they were just hitting shots," O'Brien said. "(No.) 34 (Travlos) had a great game. He was tough for us to guard. We just need to pick it up on the defensive end."
With Lake Zurich doing a better job of containing O'Brien in the second half, the 6-7 senior opted to run the point. He was successful dishing off the ball to Dunigan and 6-4 Chino Ebube (13 points, 2 dunks), who was in foul trouble in the first half.
"I've been doing that the last few games for some reason," said O'Brien, who had only 4 points after halftime, but 5 assists. "It's kind of my call. The second half, I was just trying to get other people the ball and involved, because when I was dribbling into the lane, (Lake Zurich's players) would all collapse."
Dunigan's free-throw shooting helped keep Lake Zurich at bay in the fourth. The senior forward made all 6 of his foul shots in the quarter, finishing 11 of 12 from the stripe.
"Every time we started to build the lead, we relaxed too much," Dunigan said. "That's a problem we've had. (Lake Zurich) has (No.) 34 (Travlos) and some other good shooters. We just got to focus hard the entire game."