Highland Park coach Paul Harris was in a layups-only offense as his Giants held on to a lead over Lake Forest in the regional title game at Libertyville on Friday night.
Giants junior Luke Norcia got the message as he broke loose from the Scouts defense and scored easily. There were two minutes left in the game and Highland Park led by 6 points.
"That was actually my fault,'' Norcia said. "I should have helped with a screen. And then when I was open, I was screaming my name."
His next basket came 20 seconds later and maybe put the final dagger into the Scouts. And it was no layup. Instead it was a swish from 3-point land.
"That was huge,'' Harris said. "It gave us a cushion."
Highland Park, the sixth seed in the Lake Zurich Sectional, pulled off the upset. The Giants (21-7) led from start to finish and beat the Scouts 48-39. Next Wednesday, the Giants will meet Fremd in Lake Zurich.
It was Highland Park's first regional title win since the 2008 season.
"We would get an 8- to 10-point lead,'' Harris said. "But we never felt comfortable. We have so much respect for Lake Forest."
Norcia drilled the game's first shot, from 3-point range, and the Giants opened a quick 7-0 lead.
"They really outplayed us,'' said Lake Forest coach Phil LaScala. "They played that zone defense against us and we passed the ball poorly."
On back-to-back 3-pointers from Jason Beermann, the Giants threatened to blow out the Scouts. Highland Park led 15-6 after one quarter. Lake Forest (21-7) returned the favor via consecutive 3-pointers from Jack Kauss in the second quarter. Still, the Giants led 24-16 at the half.
And then in the third quarter, it looked like the Giants would not score a single point.
"We turned up the pressure,'' LaScala said. "And we did a good of putting them in uncomfortable situations. But we really didn't do that much offensively."
Lake Forest's inside power, Evan Boudreaux, all 6-foot-8 of him, finished with 15 points.
"They got us down early and we turned the ball over a lot,'' Boudreaux said.
The big center didn't complain about the physical play of the Giants.
"It was pretty normal for me,'' he said. "They have to make up for their lack of height."
Highland Park didn't score in that third quarter until less than two minutes
were left. That came on a drive to the hoop from Tommy Sutker.
The Scouts could not pull closer than 4 points in the final quarter.
Despite the season-ending loss, LaScala appreciated his latest team.
"It was a great group to work with,'' LaScala said. "We had great senior leaders who worked extremely hard."
Norcia noted the big crowd cheering his team on.
"What a great feeling for this program,'' Norcia said. "There were a lot of alumni here, so this feels great."
Highland Park stylish guard David Sachs led all scorers with 16 points, and Norcia had 8. Bender joined Boudreaux in double figures for Lake Forest as he had 10 points.