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Against the zone, Ore Arogundade was in a zone.
The St. Viator junior guard is used to seeing man-to-man defenses during the course of the regular season. That's what most teams in the East Suburban Catholic Conference play.
But on Wednesday in Class 4A regional action at Warren, Arogundade made a living at finding the gaps and holes in Highland Park's zone defense, to the tune of a game-high 28 points.
Two of Arogundade's teammates also scored in double-figures as St. Viator notched a 67-56 victory over Highland Park and "zoned in" on Friday's regional championship game. The third-seeded Lions (19-8) will face the winner of tonight's clash between No. 6 Warren and No. 11 Barrington.
"I'd say (Highland Park's) zone is one of the best in the state," said Arogundade, who scored from all over the floor … mid-range jumpers, a 3-pointer, putbacks, drives to the basket, you name it. "We just wanted to execute. Coach (Mike Howland) prepped us really well for (the zone) in practice and we adjust pretty well as a team.
"I like it when a team plays zone because I just try to find my spots in the open areas. I try to exploit that."
Arogundade, who has scholarship offers from Northern Illinois, Toledo and Wright State and is getting serious looks from colleges such as Wisconsin-Green Bay, Oregon State, DePaul, Creighton, UC-Irvine and Cal Poly, certainly exploited Highland Park in the second quarter.
St. Viator was clinging to a 2-point lead (18-16) at the end of the first quarter, but that quickly changed as Arogundade scored four quick baskets as part of a 13-5 run. That put the Lions up by 10 with four minutes remaining until halftime.
The Lions took a comfortable 11-point lead into the break and finished the third quarter up by 11 (50-39). But there were a couple of times during the third quarter that Highland Park cut its deficit to single digits, once to as few as 3 points (39-36).
Senior forward Sam Shrago scored all 7 of his points during that rally. Meanwhile, senior forward Brandon Krawitz (team-high 11 points) and sophomore guard David Sachs (10 points) also scored in the third quarter for Highland Park.
"We made that run and for the first six minutes of the third we were able to string some stops together, " said Highland Park coach Paul Harris, whose team was seeded 14th in the sectional and wrapped up its season with a 14-14 record. "But then they ran a couple of nice sets to get some easy baskets and got into a good rhythm.
"They're such a hard team to play against because they have such great spurt-ability. You claw back into the game and then bam, they score 8 points in 30 seconds and it's like 'What just happened?'"
St. Viator turned on the buzz saw again at the beginning of the fourth quarter. The Lions opened with a 14-2 run to go up 64-41 at the midway point, putting the game firmly out of reach once and for all.
Senior guard Kevin Hammarlund came up big for St. Viator. He finished with 16 points, 11 of which he scored before halftime. Meanwhile, senior guard Patrick Martin added 11 points for the Lions.
"We've got a veteran group now and we played really well offensively," Howland said. "We've worked a lot on zone lately. We usually see man (defense) but when the (ESCC) conference title became out of reach for us, we started thinking about the playoffs and what we might see and we knew we'd see some zone. We worked on it, we had prepared for this for weeks now and I think it paid off because we got some good shots."
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