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Lakes guard Jake Balliu walked out of the visitor’s locker room at Antioch dressed festively in an electric blue bow tie.
He had just spoiled the party for the home team.
“It’s trending a little bit,” a smiling Balliu said of his fashion statement.
Antioch wore long faces at the end of the two rivals’ North Suburban Prairie Division finale, as Balliu’s 15 fourth-quarter points rallied Lakes to a 53-49 win Friday night.
“He stepped up,” Eagles coach Chris Snyder said of the three-sport junior. “He’s the kind of guy that takes a lot of pride in what he does on the court. I don’t think he was happy with how he played those first three quarters, and he just took it upon himself to take that game over.”
The 5-foot-8 Balliu scored all of his team-high 20 points in the second half, helping Lakes (13-13, 9-3) snap the season-best three-game winning streak of Antioch (7-19, 3-9).
“We caught them at a bad time,” Balliu said of the Sequoits. “They were hitting shots and they were playing as a team. They were rowdy, it was hostile and the place was going crazy.”
“Games like that,” Antioch guard Hamza Abdellatif said, “when you play with the kids you grew up with, it gets intense.”
The second half was full of momentum shifts, including a 14-0 run by Antioch that included a pair of 3-pointers by Abdellatif, erasing a 30-23 deficit and putting the Sequoits up 37-30 with 5:46 left in the fourth. Lakes countered with a 6-0 run capped by Ethan Sage’s layup, but a three-point play by Jack Kovach, a technical-foul shot by A.J. Marsiglio (6 points) and a putback by Matthew Powers (8 points, 10 rebounds) had Antioch back up by seven again (43-36) midway through the fourth.
Balliu then took over, canning his second 3-pointer of the night and finishing a three-point play.
“We needed a boost,” said Balliu, who sat the entire second quarter with 2 fouls. “It was going back and forth, and someone needed to step up. I just got the intensity up, which got everyone else going.”
Benett Haviland (13 points) then came up with a steal and layup to give Lakes the lead for good at 44-43 with 2:27 to go.
After Balliu banked in a runner, Haviland’s 2 free throws with 34 seconds left capped a 12-0 run.
Kyle Gofron, whose 21 points led all scorers, hit his third 3-pointer with 4 seconds to go, making it a two-point game, before Balliu iced the Lakes win with 2 more free throws.
“We just had some miscommunication on defense (down the stretch), and (Balliu) hit some tough shots,” said Abdellatif, who sank three 3s and finished with 11 points.
“A lot of us were in foul trouble, too, so that didn’t help us,” Gofron said. “We just needed to execute and not foul.”
Balliu finished 10 of 11 from the stripe, including 8 of 9 in the fourth.
“It felt a lot like our Wauconda game with Joey Lovelle,” said coach Jim White, whose Sequoits lost at Wauconda earlier this season, as Lovelle made 16 of 18 free throws. “We didn’t want Jake on the line. He’s probably their best free-throw shooter. ... We kept putting the wrong guy at the line.”
While Lakes played without guard Tramone Hudson, who fractured his left ankle earlier in the week, the Eagles got a big lift from Sage. The junior forward, who missed three games in a row with an ankle injury, grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 5 points.
“The boards is what he really helps us out with,” Snyder said. “He’s one of those solid athletes and a good, strong kid that can really go up and get those rebounds.”