Payton Foster came up big in the middle for Vernon Hills on Friday, providing plenty of rebounding intensity along with 4 blocked shots.
Even that wasn't enough as host Deerfield prevailed 66-63 in overtime in a Central Suburban North boys basketball matchup.
Foster scored 10 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. He also pulled down 11 rebounds, includding 7 offensive boards.
"I was trying to do anything I could to get this team a win," Foster said. "It says a lot to take Deerfield into overtime. Our team is playing well now. A loss is never good, but at the same time the team is making strides and we keep getting better.
"We're just playing for each other and working on game scenarios."
Over the last couple of weeks, the Cougars (4-23, 1-7) had close games with both Maine East and Maine West. Vernon Hills also surprised Highland Park in OT and almost got past CSL North leader Deerfield (15-10, 7-2).
"It came down to the wire," Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty said. "In the last five or so games, you have to love the effort. We battled back and came up a little short in the overtime. I just loved the effort.
"We've taken a big step forward in late January and early February. We took another step forward this week. We've done a great job sharing the ball. I'm just proud on how far they've come."
Chris Mariella (13 points) made a layup with 10 seconds left in regulation to tie it at 59-59. But Deerfield missed its chance to win it with a 3 that was a bit short of the basket as time expired.
In the overtime, Ben Bizar (game-high 22 points) made a layup and completed a 3-point play to put the Warriors ahead 62-59 with 2:44 left.
The Cougars closed within 1 a couple of times. But Deerfield made 5 straight throws in the remaining minutes. Myles Baer hit the final two with 5.4 seconds remaining; Vernon Hills had one last chance for a tying 3 but it bounced off the rim.
"I thought we were resilient and I'm not sure it was our best game of the year," Deerfield coach Dan McKendrick said. "I have to give a ton of credit -- Vernon Hills played great. They played inspired and (Foster) really did a great job tonight, getting rebounds and cleaning stuff up. He just took it hard to our big guys around the rim."
Jack Forester added 15 points for the Cougars, and Luke Perlin with 13.