Matt Reed kept using the word "special."
Libertyville's junior guard had just shot a crazy 8 of 8 from the floor, sinking five 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 25 points to help his Wildcats stun visiting Mundelein 87-80 in a North Suburban Lake Division thriller Friday night. But Reed's own perfection wasn't on his mind.
The shooter just wanted to dish -- praise, that is, to Libertyville's seniors, who were honored before tipoff.
"It was just a special night," Reed said. "A lot of emotion with senior night. We were just trying to work hard for our seniors. They've worked hard for us all year, even though it's been a little bit of a rough year."
Libertyville might qualify as a sleeper heading into the state tournament after winning a second-straight game for the first time this season. The Wildcats (5-18, 2-8), who upset Zion-Benton two weeks ago, shot 26 of 41 (63 percent) in handing Mundelein (12-10, 5-4) its second loss in a row.
"We can't take anyone for granted, and I think we did that tonight," said Mundelein's Robert Knar, who in his first significant playing-time of the season, after ACL surgery last August, came off the bench to score 12 points on four 3-pointers. "Clearly, we weren't fronting the post, and we weren't getting help side. We let (No.) 15 (Reed) hit (five) 3s."
Like Reed, 6-foot-8 sophomore Joe Borcia had a big game coming off the bench for Libertyville, scoring 18 points and grabbing 6 rebounds. Junior Jack Lipp added 17 points, sinking 6 of 6 free throws in the final 31.8 seconds to seal the visitors' fate. Senior guard Nick Carlucci added a season-high 13 points, sinking all 3 of his shots, including a pair of 3s.
"We've been playing better the last 3-4 weeks," said coach Scott Bogumil, whose Wildcats played without senior guard Matt Varner, who was ill. "We've finally had everybody in practice. So that's helped."
Chino Ebube had 25 points (11-of-13 shooting, 4 dunks) and 14 rebounds for Mundelein. Sean O'Brien added 24 points, 13 rebounds and 7 assists.
"I thought Libertyville played great," Mustangs coach Dick Knar said. "Give them credit. We were trying to be aggressive and get in the passing lanes, and they were beating us backdoor. We were getting our bodies in passing lanes instead of our hands, so we lost sight. They rotated and they were hitting shots."
When Libertyville played at Mundelein on Dec. 15, the Wildcats lost 99-63, "taking the air out of the ball," as Bogumil called it, to deny the Mustangs a chance to score 100 points. The Wildcats were determined to avoid a repeat.
"We reminded the kids today, not about the thumping necessarily, but about how I thought we competed only in stretches (at Mundelein) and not the whole game," Bogumil said. "I said, 'If we're going to lose by 30, at least we got to compete.' That was the goal today. We made our shots. We were on fire."
"The game at Mundelein didn't go the way we wanted it to, but the game against Mundelein is always a special game," Reed said. "It's a rivalry."
Reed's 3-pointer with five seconds left before halftime gave Libertyville a 37-34 lead. The 6-foot lefty then drained three more from beyond the arc in the third quarter, which ended with Mundelein up 59-58.
Knar played less than three minutes in each quarter, shooting 4 of 10 (all from three-point range). After missing all 3 of his shots in the opening quarter, he knocked down both of his attempts in the second quarter.
His dad thought he was too relaxed on his shot, at first.
"When he took his first couple and he missed," Dick Knar said, "I told him, 'Dude, you're shooting like you're on the gun. This is a game situation. You get that sucker and you got to get rid of it.' "
When Knar drained his first 3, off a pass from O'Brien with 4:03 left in the second quarter to pull Mundelein within 27-25, it marked his first basket since last season's sectional final. In his season debut two weeks ago at Warren, he played just four seconds.
"I finally hit one and I just felt elated," Knar said. "I was glad to finally just be back out there, and then I got in a rhythm."
A Borcia free throw with 5:45 left in the fourth gave Libertyville the lead for good at 65-64, and the Wildcats then went on a 10-3 run, capped by Reed's layup off a dish from Carlucci. Lipp scored 12 points in the fourth.
"This team hasn't given up," Reed said. "The playoffs are still ahead of us, and we're trying to get it going."