Libertyville senior forward Steven Braun needed all seven inches he's grown since his freshman year to try to deny Derek Parola the basketball and alter the devilishly hot shot of the Mundelein guard.
And even that didn't always help.
At a school that has produced more than its share of great shooters -- Kyle Kessel, Doug Rippberger, Eric Levernier, Sean Stackhouse, Ben Brust, Robert Knar -- Parola put on undoubtedly one of the best shooting performances in a Mustangs jersey. The 6-foot senior sank a school-record 12 3-pointers, finishing with a career-high 38 points, but his effort wasn't enough.
Jack Lipp put up a career-high 34 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, and Braun added a career-best 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting and 7 boards, as Libertyville nearly squandered a 24-point lead before holding on for a 93-81 win in an entertaining North Suburban Lake Division battle Saturday night.
"Every possession, I had to go through about three screens," said the 6-6 Braun, who chased Parola most of the night, before getting help from teammates, including Bryan Scanlan. "It was hard to keep up with him. It was really tiring."
Center Joe Borcia added 19 points and 7 rebounds for Libertyville (8-5, 2-3). J.T. Michalski chipped in 15 points and 10 rebounds, while also taking 2 charges, for Mundelein (1-13, 0-5). The Mustangs knocked down 20 3-pointers, including 4 from reserve Tyler Olson (14 points). Michalski and Nick Filippo (10 points) drained two 3s apiece.
Parola shot 13 of 28 from the floor, hitting 50 percent of 24 3-point shots.
"I guess it's a once-in-a-lifetime (game)," said Parola, whose made 3-pointers matched his No. 12 jersey. "The hoop just looked twice the size as it usually does. I don't know why."
Late in the fourth quarter, Parola landed on a player's foot and tweaked his ankle. He played on, limping, before finally going to the bench. But he got back in the game, still limping slightly, and sank his final 3-pointer with 10 seconds left.
"That's the way Derek should be playing all the time," Mundelein coach Corey Knigge said of Parola's overall performance. "He can shoot the ball. He's his own worst enemy sometimes. He won't be able to shrug off a couple of misses."
It was all Libertyville early, as the Wildcats rarely missed. They bolted to a 32-12 lead after one quarter on 15-of-19 shooting (all conventional two-pointers). Braun had 13 points, just missing a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.
"He's a guy who was a B player as a sophomore," Wildcats coach Scott Bogumil said of Braun, who had 17 points against Homewood-Flossmoor at Proviso West just before Christmas. "He sprouted up and he's starting to figure it out. He's one of the guys you wish you had for another year or two. If he wants to play at a Division III school, they might get a surprise, because he just keeps blossoming."
Libertyville's lead swelled to 36-12 early in the second quarter, but Parola sank four 3s after a Johnny Vernasco bucket. Parola's last 3-pointer of the quarter and sixth of the half was a 25-foot bomb that beat the buzzer and got Mundelein within 56-39.
"We've come out flat almost every single game of the season," Parola said. "For some reason, the second half we always try to make a comeback, but it's just too late. It's too big of a margin to come back from a lot of times."
The 5-5 Filippo sank a 3-pointer from the right corner with 2:03 left in the third, as Mundelein clawed within 67-62. But Lipp's second 3 of the night had Libertyville up by eight heading into the fourth.
Lipp then scored on a layup and post-up move to start the fourth. That was part of a 7-0 run to start the quarter, and Mundelein never cut its deficit to single digits the rest of the way.
"We've had the same conversion now 13 times (with the team) -- 'Well, if we just would have played in the first half like we played in the second half. ...' " Knigge said. "I keep asking them, 'Why, every single game, do we keep doing the same thing?' It's my job to figure it out."
Libertyville prevailed despite shooting 13 of 29 from the foul line. Lipp, who had his third game of 30-plus points this season, missed 7 free throws, and Borcia misfired on 6. Lipp shot 13 of 20 from the floor.
"Lipp's good," Knigge said. "Strong kid."
The Wildcats outscored the Mustangs 23-19 in the fourth.
"We started making our layups," Braun said. "We missed about three layups in a row. Then we got a timeout and Coach Bogumil told us to start making our layups. We did and we just took it from there."