2015-'16 Season Coverage
Article updated: 12/27/2013 11:06 PM
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Vernon Hills claws past Niles North

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Vernon Hills claws past Niles North
Howard Schlossberg

The Cougars are clawing and growling again, and loving it.

The Vernon Hills Cougars boys basketball team, that is. They improved to 10-3 and will play for fifth place at 3:45 p.m. Saturday in the Wildcat Hardwood Classic at Wheeling against Deerfield.

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But their 62-56 win over Niles North on Friday validated their credentials after a demoralizing loss the day before to Naperville Central, a regular in the tournament final four for many years.

The Cougars steadily pulled away from the stubborn Vikings after a dead-even first quarter. As usual, combination guard Bobby Nardini (24 points) paced the scoring and the floor game.

"I think we're playing really well right now," said the 5-foot-10 junior, who hit 5 of his first 6 shots in the second half, three of them 3-pointers, as Vernon Hills pulled away from a 33-29 halftime edge against an athletic, pressing squad with irrepressible forward Duante Stephens (13 points) and ballhawking point guard J.J. Myles, who got into something of a personal duel with Nardini.

A third-quarter blitz proved decisive for Vernon Hills, as Mike Mariella hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Nardini did the same as the score ballooned from 33-29 to 55-41 in Vernon Hills' favor.

Lem Turner dominated around the basket, blocking 6 shots, as the Cougars made it difficult for the Vikings to get clean looks in the second half.

A balanced scoring attack included 10 points from Bo Manso, who is versatile enough to play inside and out, 9 from Mariella, 7 from Mike Weaver and 5 from Turner.

"Robby (Nardini) and Jake Boyer did a nice job handling (Niles North's) pressure," said Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty.

Now, going forward, "We have to stay poised," said Nardini.

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