Yes, this one was a grinder.
And old-fashioned, slow-paced boys basketball game took place at Lake Zurich on Thursday night. Visiting Lake Forest (5-9, 1-3) actually led early at 7-2.
In the second quarter both teams made two field goals each. It increased to three field goals in the third quarter.
Lake Zurich's Peter DiCerbo made 6 consecutive free throws late in this contest. The junior guard made all of his 8 free throws to finish with a game-high 16 points as the Bears held serve 42-35 in North Suburban Conference action.
"There is no such thing as a bad win,'' said Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher.
Lake Zurich senior Michael Bens helped out with 10 points and 4 rebounds. And he's sure he's seen this game before.
"Every time, we play Lake Forest, they lock us down,'' Bens said. "We just weren't getting great shots tonight."
Certainly, the Bears (9-3, 2-2) have a better offense than the Scouts. Just as certain is that it was a struggle on this night.
"It was a lot of grinding,'' DiCerbo noted. "But we hit our free throws at the end and that was huge."
On a basket and 2 free throws from Ryan Kutsor (11 points), the Bears grabbed the lead back at the end of the first quarter. Kutsor and guard Brian Chmiel hit 3-pointers in the second quarter. The rest of Lake Zurich's points came from the free throw line, and the Bears' halftime lead was 21-15.
"We are pretty solid defensively,'' Bens said. "At the Pekin Tournament, we were giving up 60-70 points, so coach told us to lock down our defense a lot better."
The Scouts crept within a single point (27-26) early in the fourth quarter on a 3 from Danny Hart. However, 20 seconds later, Bens matched that 3.
"We tried to get our transition game going,'' Pitcher said. "But you have to respect Lake Forest's defense. And that (Justin) McMahon) is a crafty player. He has a great pull-up jumper."
DiCerbo actually had a 10-point run by himself in the fourth quarter. His driving layup gave the Bears some breathing room at 33-26, and those six straight free throws pushed the lead to 39-30.
"I looked up the scoreboard and didn't see our usual scores up there,'' DiCerbo noted. "We needed to speed it up. I felt pretty good early and got a little worried but we were able to grind it out."
One play certainly did awaken the home crowd, as Kutsor got loose and fired down a thunderous dunk in the final seconds.
McMahon led Lake Forest with 14 points. His second 3 came in the final seconds as well.
Bens noted his Bears team had a great run last year, and he likes the makeup of this year's version as well.
"I loved last year's team,'' Bens said. "But I think this team is a little more athletic."