After injuring his right ankle in a win over Antioch on January 21, Libertyville senior Jack Lipp has been fighting with whether to wear tape on the ankle, or just leave it off.
"Sometimes it can be too tight, which isn't good," Lipp said. "And sometimes it can be too loose, which doesn't do anything."
Following a week of practice without the tape, Lipp decided to skip the tape job for the Wildcats' road contest against Warren on Friday night. So it only figured that early in the first quarter, on a strange pile-up under the Wildcats' basket, Lipp would twist it again.
Tape or no tape, it didn't affect Lipp or the Wildcats.
"I felt (the ankle) kind of tweak a little, but I was fine," Lipp said later.
Lipp may have felt better, but he was a pain in the side for a Warren team that has struggled of late. Normally known for his scoring, Lipp was generous with the ball, dishing out 7 assists, and he also led the Wildcats with 13 points in a 54-48 win over the Blue Devils.
"Some games he would go out and score 30 and some nights he wouldn't," said Libertyville coach Scott Bogumil. "He does whatever is needed to win the game."
What Libertyville (12-10, 4-7) needed most in a tight ball game was to take care of the ball. Sometimes it worked as Libertyville built a 36-25 second half lead. Sometimes it didn't, and that contributed to an 11-0 run by Warren that brought the Devils even at 36-36 with 3:25 left in the third quarter.
"I had to tell the guys during a timeout to throw the ball to the guys in the black jerseys, not the guys sitting 5 rows up in the black shirts," Bogumil said. "When we took care of it, we did a good job of being patient against their zone."
The Wildcats carried a 41-39 lead into the final quarter and led by as many as 6 with 4:42 left, but they simply couldn't shake the Devils. Senior Greg Swane kept Warren close as he led all scorers with 18 points.
Warren (14-14, 4-8) had chance after chance down the stretch and in particular the final 3 minutes of the contest. After trimming the lead down to 48-47 with 3:18 left on a bucket by Adrian Deere (14 points), Warren missed its last 7 shots.
"Right now the ball is just not going in the basket for us," said Warren coach Ryan Webber, whose team has lost 5 in a row and 7 of their last 9. "We took a lot of shots, but we are kind of snake bit right now and we just told the kids we just have to keep battling."
Four straight free throws from Lipp and Johnny Vernasco (11 points) moved the margin to 5, with Warren still having a chance. But long misses from Eric Gillespie (15 points) and James Betori ended the threat.
Conor Peterson and Steven Braun chipped in with 10 points apiece for Libertyville, which has won three of its last 4.