It's a good thing Vernon Hills junior Robby Nardini hit a 3-pointer early in the first quarter of Friday night's game at home. If he didn't, his Cougars would have trailed 16-0.
"We came out really slow,'' noted Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty. "At one point, (Mateusz) Lopez was winning 10-3 over us."
Four-game winner Round Lake held onto the lead over the Cougars all the way to halftime.
And then Nardini, held to that one 3-pointer in the first half, put on a third-quarter show that has not been seen in these parts in the 11 seasons that McCarty has been in the building.
By the end of the third quarter, the junior's point total had gone up by 20 points. Vernon Hills (14-9) came all the way back to handle the Panthers 84-66.
But 20 points in one quarter by one player?
"And he made a couple of great kick-out passes, too,'' McCarty said. "I really can't remember anyone scoring 20 points in a quarter. That's certainly one of the best quarters we've had offensively."
There were a few Nardini drives to the hoop that helped cut into the Round Lake lead. The turning point in this NSC Prairie Division game came when Nardini fired off consecutive passes to Matt Weaver (14 points). This junior helped Nardini picked up a pair of assists as he drilled two consecutive 3-pointers giving the Cougars the lead for good.
Nardini then turned it on offensively. He took a page from Weaver's book and closed the quarter with three of his game-high five 3-pointers.
"In that third quarter, my teammates helped me to get open,'' Nardini said. "I have no idea how many points I have had in a quarter. I think it's 15 at the most."
Nardini finished with 32 points. He also added 5 rebounds and 4 assists.
"We knew they could shoot the ball well,'' said Round Lake coach Jeremy Fisher. "But they weren't hot in that first half. We had that great first half and then had that letdown in the third quarter."
All eyes early were on the senior Lopez. He scored the first 7 points for the Panthers (4-18).
"He had that great first half,'' Fisher said. "And then he got into some foul trouble and couldn't get back in rhythm."
It was senior night at Vernon Hills. McCarty was forced to call a timeout when his team was down 16-3.
"I called timeout and told the seniors to get the team going,'' McCarty said.
With Nardini dominating action in the third quarter, Vernon Hills won that period decisively, 32-9.
"We all love to play basketball,'' Nardini said. "We play really well together."
Round Lake's leading scorer, Karnell Wright, led the Panthers with 24 points. Lopez finished with 19 points. Backing up Nardini's big night was Sam Rattner who added 13 points.