Winning is a learning experience, and learning to win can be painful.
Two boys varsity basketball teams in learning mode are Lake Park and Maine West, who met Saturday night for the consolation bracket title in the Wildcat Hardwood Classic at Wheeling.
Maine West learned that a lead is hard to hold onto, especially after holding it exclusively for nearly three quarters. Lake Park learned that getting down is not the end of the world, and perseverance is a beautiful thing as the Lancers rallied for a 56-44 win and some momentum heading into the second half of the season.
They owe much of that perseverance to their reserves. Melvin Kimbrough (14 points) and Mikey Van Aswegen came off the bench to spark the Lancers, who played tentatively against Maine West's quickness and sharpshooting.
Both had an immediate impact in the second quarter. Lake Park (9-6) coach Josh Virostko said his squad might not otherwise have recovered from a flurry generated by Maine West's Allante Bates (14 points), who drew ooohs and aaahs from the crowd with his swirling moves, Matt Ferreren (10), relentless around the basket, and Tom Kukec (9), deadly from the perimeter.
Lake Park tied it up on Kimbrough's drive and then went ahead for the first time on his steal, which earned him a free throw for the go-ahead point with 1:42 left in the third period.
In the fourth, Kimbrough's drive made it 45-42 in favor of Lake Park, and Van Aswegen's layin on a feed from Kimbrough on a fastbreak were all part of a 10-0 run that pretty much sealed the decision. Around the rim, center Jake Ktsanes was asserting himself against the smaller Warriors lineup en route to a 14-point evening.
"Mikey and Mel really picked us up," said Virostko, who said Kimbrough's quickness and ballhandling helped spread the floor. "Our energy did increase. We started getting some guys open."
"I just want to pass the ball, get open looks," Kimbrough said of his role. "In the first half, we didn't play with enough intensity. We just have to come out and play with that level of intensity."
So does Maine West (6-7).
"We kind of fell apart as a team," said Bates. "We've got to play harder as a team, more together."
Maine West coach Erik McNeill felt he got that kind of effort, but not with enough polish and consistency.
"They wore us out," he said. "We had way too many turnovers. In a possession game like that, you've got to be sound. They had a couple of runouts. We've got to get back in transition and take that away."
Lake Park had as many turnovers as field goals in the first half -- 9.
"We were sloppy," in the first half, Virostko noted. And they'll need to stay upbeat and play clean as they come back for games against Conant, which made it to the York championship game; West Aurora, which is competing in the title game at Pontiac; and Glenbard East.
As for Maine West, the lessons continue.
"I think we got better as a team," in the tournament, said McNeill. "We were an inexperienced team coming into this year. Now the guys are starting to get it."