An official football visit planned to the University of Minnesota this weekend wasn't the reason why Direll Clark was flashing one of his familiar smiles, which are wider than his tree-trunk thighs.
Nor was it his first dunk of the season that had the Lakes senior so happy.
Rather, it was ...
"A win," a smiley Clark said, "on top of (the dunk)."
Clark did his part, and not just with his one-handed slam that showed off the 5-foot-11 athlete's hops. He had 11 points, including a 3-pointer, and 7 rebounds in Lakes' 63-50 victory over visiting Vernon Hills in a North Suburban Prairie Division contest Friday night.
Andrew Spencer's 13 points, which included a couple of dagger 3-pointers down the stretch, led the way offensively for Lakes (13-5, 5-1). Jake Kohler added 12 points and 6 rebounds, Justin Bergeron contributed 10 points and 8 boards, and point guard Troy Swindle chipped in 9 points and 5 assists.
Vernon Hills (7-10, 3-3), which trailed by 13 points after three quarters, got within 51-48 on a drive by Stephen Curry (game-high 21 points) with 5:07 left, but couldn't get any closer.
"We're still working on that consistency factor of playing a complete game," Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. "But I thought we did a good job after the first quarter, once we got a lead on them, of answering their runs with runs of our own. It was good to see our guys, when (Vernon Hills) would chip away, fight right back."
Clark, who has dunked in a varsity game before, got his first of the season in the closing seconds of the third quarter after Spencer fed him perfectly in transition. Clark cocked back and threw down a lefty slam with a defender on him, and drew the foul.
"Spencer threw a nice bounce pass, I caught it and just dunked it," Clark said.
Lakes took a 47-34 lead into the fourth, but Curry and sophomore Robby Nardini rallied Vernon Hills. Nardini sank a 3-pointer to get the comeback started and later hit another shot, while Curry scored 9 points in the quarter.
Former freshman B-player TJ Flis (8 points) hustled for 4 of his 13 rebounds in the fourth.
"Coach always emphasizes to give 100-percent effort at all times and that it's not over until it's over," Curry said. "We felt we could play with this team. Even though they had that big lead, we thought if we could keep battling, we could come back in the game."
"We thought the game was over," said Clark, the all-state running back who will road-trip it Sunday with football/basketball teammates Bergeron and Spencer, who plan to check out Winona State. "(Vernon Hills) kept pushing us and we let them push us around. Then Coach was getting mad at us so we had to stick up the 'D.' "
Trailing 53-48, Vernon Hills got an apparent 3-pointer from Nate Rathod (10 points) with 2:28 left. But the referee ruled the ball, which bounced high on the backboard, hit the support beam. In the second quarter, the outcome was reverse, as the referees ruled that T.J. Edwards' 3, which took a similar bounce as Rathod's, did not hit the support beam.
"I've been coaching a long time and I've never seen two of those in one game," Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty said.
Curry's effort was his sixth 20-point-plus effort of the season. He shot 9 of 20 from the floor.
"He was really good in the open floor and taking it to the basket, which is his specialty," McCarty said. "There were times when it could have gone from a 12- or 13-point lead to 20 and Stephen was saying to his teammates, 'Let's keep playing. Let's keep playing defense and try to get back in the game.' Not only did he have a good floor game, but his leadership skills in the huddle and on the court were exceptional, too."