For Lake Park it was a matter of attacking the gaps. And we're not talking about football and offensive line gaps. This was all about gaps around the basket and establishing position while working the inside-outside game.
Once the Lancers attacked the basket in the third quarter of Wednesday's opening contest against Proviso West in the Chuck Mitchell Thanksgiving boys basketball tournament at Fenton, they surged to a lead they would never lose en route to a 63-60 victory over the Panthers in Bensenville.
"We got stagnant that first half when they went zone and had no one carving out inside, nobody that was establishing position," said Lake Park coach Josh Virostko, whose team improved its overall record to 3-0. "When you attack a zone, you have to go inside out. Our guards were not attacking the gap. The third quarter we attacked the gaps. When we made our run, we were attacking them."
The crucial run by the Lancers came in the final 2:32 of the third quarter. Ahead only 31-29, they outscored Proviso West (1-2) by a margin of 15-5 to lead 46-34 heading in the final eight minutes of the game. During that stretch, Lancers forward Mike Karas scored 7 unanswered points and finished with 15 points. He drained a 3-pointer, beat the Panthers up the court after a defensive stop and got a really nice dish from Sean Moore for a score near the bucket.
"Offensively, he has always been a guy who could score," Virostko said of Karas, a junior who was the leading scorer on the sophomore team last season. "If he learns to be a complete player, the sky is the limit for him. He can always score. (Wednesday) he demonstrated that."
Also during that stretch came a 3 from sharpshooting guard Tim Weiss, who led the team with 16 points. He hit 5 clutch 3-pointers in the game to help keep Lake Park ahead during the first half.
"We just moved the ball, kicked the ball when they doubled down on us and we got open shots," Weiss said. "We did a great job once they double teamed us on the press, passing out and after that we had an advantage because someone was open."
The Panthers did their own surging in the fourth quarter thanks to the play of ArRaval Adams, who poured in 16 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter and 11 points from Kendall Mack. Mack's long 3-pointer from the left wing with 14.6 seconds cut the deficit to 62-59. The Lancers sank just enough free throws -- only 8 of 19 in the fourth quarter -- including late free throws from Moore who finished with 12 points, to stay above water.
"The team as a whole came together," Karas said. "We were all running the floor and we all played defense. Defensive stops led to buckets on the offensive end.
"The free throws are a big problem right now, but we are going to look at this game as more of momentum going into Fremd on Friday night looking to get a W."
Added Proviso West coach Tommie Miller: "Lake Park is a very disciplined team. They stayed together and did not fall apart."