Big guys often get a bad rap as bad free throw shooters.
Will McClaughry did his best anti-Shaq impression on Saturday night.
Instead of clank, clank clank, it was swish, swish, swish as Lake Zurich's 6-foot-6 center put on a free throw shooting clinic in leading the Bears to a 69-58 North Suburban Conference Lake Division victory at Libertyville.
McClaughry went a perfect 8-for-8 at the line in the last minute of the fourth quarter to help Lake Zurich hold off the relentless Wildcats, who were down by only 4 points with 40 seconds remaining. He was 10-for-10 from the line in the second half and 10-for-11 on the game en route to 14 points.
"Lately, we've been working on free throws a lot in practice and I just keep it in my head to keep both arms up and follow through," McClaughry said. "I think it's about repetition. I try to shoot (free throws) as much as I can."
Libertyville, desperate to stop the clock in the final seconds, kept fouling McClaughry, thinking it a safe bet to put the big man on the line.
"Will is a good free throw shooter and a good shooter overall," Lake Zurich guard Mike Travlos said. "He was in the 3-point shootout last year and went down to sectionals. He can shoot the ball. A lot of people might not know that about him.
"I'm not surprised he went 10-for-10 (in the second half)."
Overall, Lake Zurich, which improves to 14-10 overall and 3-5 in the North Suburban Lake, hit 13-of-19 free throws in the fourth quarter and 22-of-30 free throws for the game.
Travlos hit 6-of-7 free throws himself on his way to a game-high 28 points. He was also efficient from the field, connecting on 10-of-19 shots, including two 3-pointers. In the second quarter, he was nearly unstoppable, scoring 13 points on a variety of shots and moves.
"I have to be honest, I was getting a little lucky. I hit some shots where the shot selection was mediocre but they were just falling," Travlos said. "I was hot and my teammates were looking for me and we were playing well."
And yet, despite the explosion by Travlos and a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer by Brad Kruse (13 points overall), Lake Zurich took just a 34-33 lead into the locker room at the break.
A 17-2 run over the first half of the third quarter is where Lake Zurich ultimately took control.
"That was our best quarter of the season," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said of the third. "We were really clicking on both ends of the floor, making some great plays. And (Libertyville) missed some shots that they would normally make. And we were able to take advantage of it with some transition points."
Libertyville, which drops to 9-9 on the season and 2-5 in the NSC Lake, hit just 4-of-13 shots in the third quarter, but was able to cut a 16-point deficit to 10 points at the end of the quarter on some strong moves inside by Ben Kimpler and Joe Borcia.
The Wildcats again had trouble getting shots to fall in the fourth quarter, going 6-of-23 from the field.
"We have trouble sometimes executing at the end of games," said Borcia, who had a team-high 16 points. "I think we did a better job defensively in the second half. I think if we played that way early on it would have been a different game.
"It's frustrating because we started the season 5-0. But, in my opinion, this is the best conference in the state and it's hard to get wins in conference. "
Libertyville also got 14 points from Conor Peterson and 10 points from Matt Reed.
"We were down by 16 points and we fought back, give the kids credit for that," Libertyville coach Scott Bogumil said. "But when we were down 6 points near the end there, we had three straight possessions where we had good looks and we just couldn't get the shot to fall. Then we had to foul. And Lake Zurich is really good at knocking down free throws when they have the lead. The same thing happened to us the last time we played them."