It takes a great shot to penetrate the tree-trunk thighs of Direll Clark enough for the Lakes senior to suffer a charley horse.
It happened Friday night.
It takes great shots to penetrate Lakes' defense enough for an upset to be pulled off in the state tournament.
It didn't happen.
Clark and his teammates refused.
Instead, Lakes used its physical and tenacious brand of basketball to win the way it has all season and spoil a near-triple-double by Wauconda's Devon King. The second-seeded Eagles put on a defensive show in outlasting the No. 7 Bulldogs 49-35 in the Class 3A regional final at Vernon Hills.
"We couldn't hit a shot," Wauconda coach Scott Luetschwager said after his Bulldogs went just 1 of 13 from 3-point range and got few second-chance opportunities at the basket. "Lakes' defense, give it to them. They forced us to rush our shots, and they got after it. Their defense is amazing. They're physical, they're big, they have long arms. They just swallowed us up."
Lakes (24-6), which had never won a regional title before last season, will next play No. 6 Carmel (14-13) in Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. sectional semifinal at Antioch. Justin Bergeron, who was coming off a career-high 26-point effort against Grayslake Central, led Lakes with 12 points and 5 rebounds. Jake Kohler added 10 and 6 boards, while Andrew Spencer and T.J. Edwards chipped in 8 points apiece for the Eagles, who won their 11th game in a row.
Lakes limited Wauconda (14-15) to 1-of-11 shooting in the third quarter to extend a 23-18 halftime advantage to 34-23 heading into the fourth.
"No team ever really got a flow tonight, but at this time of the year, it's kind of that," Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. "We came out in that third quarter and broke through enough to get some separation."
Edwards played huge coming off the bench. He entered just 21 seconds into the game, after his teammate Clark hit the court hard. Clark was coming off a screen when his right thigh banged into the planted knee of a Wauconda player. The rugged senior missed about half of the opening quarter but played through the pain the rest of the game.
"It still hurts right now," Clark said as he and his teammates were exiting the high school. "I'm probably going to ice it up."
Edwards, one of the Eagles' better defensive players, was active at both ends of the court immediately. He led Lakes with 10 rebounds and also had 4 steals.
"One of my good games," Edwards said with a grin.
"He played very well," Clark said. "He's a good defender. He can guard the ball well."
Lakes held Wauconda's two leading scorers, Austin Swenson and Kodey Thomas, to 6 and 5 points, respectively. The two seniors typically give the Bulldogs anywhere from 30-35 points per game and sometimes more.
"They're great scorers," Snyder said. "They can light it up really quickly. We had Direll work on Kodey, and we just rotated guys on Swenson. We tried to be physical with them and make them work for it. Luckily, we were able to keep them in check."
Wauconda didn't have a double-digit scorer but received an inspired performance from King. The 6-foot-2, long-armed senior scored 9 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked 8 shots.
"I was just trying to doing everything I needed to do," King said. "If we needed defense, I was trying to do that. If we needed offense, I was trying to do that. If we needed me to get rebounds, I tried to do that -- anything so we could keep playing."
Called a "late bloomer" by Luetschwager, King worked hard in the off-season to add muscle. He became a leader who would lead stretches on his own and brought kids together. His attitude and character impressed his coach.
"He's one of those guys that just brings it every single day," Luetschwager said. "He's one of the reasons why we had success."
Lakes built its lead to 44-25 midway through the fourth, as the 6-1 Spencer threw down a one-handed dunk for the second game in a row. Wauconda didn't crack 30 points until Thomas hit a soft jumper late.
"We were trying to look for calls in the first half," Edwards said. "In the second half, we really beared down and played physical ball."