At 6-foot-6, junior Will McClaughry gets plenty of time playing center for the surging Lake Zurich boys basketball team.
And that is so important, with injuries hitting the two other centers on the team.
McClaughry was having another solid game on Saturday night. He even drilled a 3-pointer to open up a double digit lead over Niles North in the Second Annual Lake Zurich Martin Luther King Classic.
And then he fouled out.
Oh, what would these Bears do without their center?
No fear, Corey Helgeson was ready for action. He quietly posted some very good numbers in the 64-49 win.
"I had 10 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists,'' Helgeson said.
All from a kid who was playing junior varsity ball a year ago.
"He has worked extremely hard,'' said Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher. "Corey is incredible condition. He can play the 3 and the 4. He drives to the basket and he gets those offensive rebounds."
The Bears (12-7) had opened play on Saturday morning with a ringing 67-47 romp over Marian Central. McClaughry and Mike Travlos shared scoring honors in that matchup with 19 points each.
At the start of the second game, the Vikings of Niles North looked like the fresher club and led 9-2.
That lead didn't last long as Travlos (16 points) went on a personal 5-point run, and the game was knotted at 14-14 after the first quarter.
A scoring drought hit the Vikings halfway through the second quarter. Another five-point streak by Travlos helped pull the Bears ahead to stay.
McClaughry (18 points) scored after a gorgeous pass from Brad Kruse and Lake Zurich was up 29-19.
"We've won 4 games in a row,'' McClaughry said. "It's our best streak of the year."
Pitcher, too, has watched as McClaughry has stepped up his scoring.
"Last year, he was a high post guy taking 15-footers,'' Pitcher said. "Now he has added strength. He also has a nice touch from 3-point range."
McClaughry's turn at scoring 5 points in a row came in the fourth quarter. He started with the 3-pointer from the top of the key.
"I was in the sectional 3-point shooting contest last year,'' McClaughry said. "And they were playing so far off of me."
Niles North coach coach, Glenn Olson, was tossed out of the game after sustaining his second technical foul. Despite that setback, his Vikings continued to play hard. By the end of the third quarter, the Vikings were only 5 points down at 44-39. North junior Duante Stephens had a personal 6-point run in that third quarter and ended up leading all scorers with 20 points.
An old fashioned 3-point play from Helgeson restored the Bears' lead to double digits.
"We are on a great run right now,'' Helgeson said. "We've been pretty much in every game and not been blown out by anyone."
Lake Zurich's final game of the tourney comes at 5:30 p.m. Monday, when the Bears meet Carmel for the championship.