It just seems that, no matter what, Vernon Hills senior guard Jake Boyer is always in the mix.
Whether it's in practice, during a game, or even creating a unique cookie recipe that he carried in a neatly decorated jar for the holidays, Boyer's stirring things up.
"I think all you have to do is dump it in a bowl and add eggs," Boyer said. "It looks kind of cool, though."
Boyer was cool for the Cougars at the free throw line in a tight game with visiting Grayslake Central on Friday night. With Vernon Hills holding a tenuous 55-52 lead with 14.8 seconds left, Boyer stepped to the line and calmly sank both of his free throws.
The 2 points were the first in over two minutes for Vernon Hills as the hosts hung on for a 58-54 win over the Rams in a nonconference contest.
"(Jake) is a senior who comes every day and does whatever he is asked, so that is why I was real happy for him," said Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty. "When no one else was making them, Jake stepped up and came through for us."
Vernon Hills (8-2) appeared to be in complete control as the hosts raced out to as much as a 16-point lead in the first half. The Cougars maintained that lead even when the Rams made a run.
Vernon Hills led 37-24 midway through the third quarter before Grayslake Central (5-3) started to put together a sustained run of its own.
"The first 16 minutes we knew (Vernon Hills) had a lot of energy playing at home and they had a great crowd and have some terrific shooters," said Central coach Brian Moe. "You add them coming in after a tough loss at North Chicago and they got off to a great start -- and we didn't."
The Rams chopped into the lead thanks to the outside shooting of sophomore Sam Ruhlmann, who scored 10 of his co-team high 14 points in the third quarter as the Rams trimmed the lead to 49-40 after three periods. Robby Nardini scored 7 of his game-best 15 in the period for the Cougars.
"We saw Ruhlmann when we scouted them and new he was a good shooter and could fill it up," McCarty said. "Give them credit. We turned it over a few times, missed some shots and they took advantage and got back into it."
An 8-0 run midway through the final quarter paced by 6 points from senior Alex Lennartz (14 points) trimmed the Cougars' lead to 55-52 with 14.8 seconds left. That's when Boyer made his biggest impact of the night.
"We work on it in practice -- shooting pressure free throws," said Boyer, who finished with 5 points. "You have to run if you miss, so I just tried to zone everything out and make them."
Vernon Hills built its margin in the first half on balanced scoring. To go with his 11 points, junior Lem Turner also added 5 boards.