In Saturday's defensive battle between Lake Zurich and Libertyville, it seemed only fitting that victory was sealed with a charge taken.
Down 7 points in the final minute, the host Wildcats were in desperate need of a few quick scores. But the Lake Zurich defense didn't give an inch. The Bears turned Libertyville away again and again.
And when senior guard Ryan Roach drew a charge on yet another Libertyville attempt at the basket, it put the Bears in charge once and for all.
Lake Zurich hit 7 straight free throws, including 3 by Roach, to close out a 55-45 North Suburban Conference Lake Division victory over Libertyville.
The Bears, who were up by only a point at halftime (24-23) and by 5 at the end of three quarters, improve to 13-11 overall and 3-5 in the Lake Division. They have now won seven of their last nine games and nine of their last 12.
"We really stress defense. We have all year," said Roach, who leads Lake Zurich in charges taken with 14 on the season. "I thought we played a pretty good defensive game.
"It was huge the way we played (defense at the end of the game). It took a lot of time off the clock and they had to start fouling us and we did a great job of hitting our free throws."
Roach, who scored 12 points, including 10 in the second half, was one of three Lake Zurich players in double-figures. Junior guard Brad Kruse paced the Bears with a team-high 13 points on three 3-pointers. And 6-foot-6 sophomore center Will McLaughry added 10 points.
Sophomore guard Mike Travlos finished with 8 points for Lake Zurich.
"It wasn't pretty at times, but we did what we needed to do to win," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "I think that's kind of a testament to where our team has come. We've got some senior leaders and we also have some young guys and they're really starting to mesh. I think we've grown a lot and today was an example of that."
Libertyville has barely had a chance to mesh this season.
The Wildcats have battled injuries and illnesses to key players all throughout the season. This time, they were without starting senior forward Jack Deichl, who wasn't injured but was not in attendance because he was on an official college campus visit for football at Division II Merrimack College in Massachusetts. Deichl was Libertyville's quarterback last fall.
Libertyville is now 3-16 and 1-7 in Lake Division play.
"Lake Zurich did a good job of slowing things down on us and then they executed," Libertyville coach Scott Bogumil said. "It was a physical game and Jack (Deichl) is our most physical player so he would have helped us. But even with that, we were still right there.
"It's been like that all season. We've been missing guys left and right and I think Tuesday was the first game we had all of our guys and we won. We beat Zion-Benton. It's frustrating. You look at who we have, and you can't believe we're 3-16. We just haven't had everyone together all at once like we thought we would."
The Wildcats got balanced scoring, with junior forward John Vernasco and sophomore guard Drew Cayce finishing with 11 and 10 points respectively. Junior guard Jack Lipp had 9 points and Matt Varner added 8 points.
"We just need to get some wins," Vernasco said. "We need to keep a positive outlook and push through this. We're there every game, we just need to get through a few times.
"We know how we're capable of playing, and that's at a high level. If we catch fire here at the end and get into a rhythm, with all of our guys back, I think we can definitely make a run and be that Cinderella story."