If the football team can match the offensive pace of the boys basketball team, Lake Zurich might be celebrating another championship Saturday night.
For the second year in a row, Lake Zurich won the season-opening Johnsburg/Richmond-Burton boys basketball tournament, capping a 4-0 showing with a 76-56 win over Johnsburg in Richmond on Friday night. Saturday at 4 p.m., Lake Zurich's unbeaten football team plays Batavia for the Class 7A state championship in DeKalb.
"We all are (going), at least to my knowledge," Bears guard Ryan Kutsor said of the basketball team. "All my friends are going."
For the second year in a row, as well, Kutsor was named MVP of the tournament. After putting up 21 points and 8 rebounds in a win over Wauconda earlier on Friday, the 6-foot-4 senior scored 14 points and grabbed 8 boards against Johnsburg (2-2). Bears junior point guard JR Cison scored a game-high 20 points and directed an offense that averaged 65.8 points per game in the tourney.
Kutsor averaged 15 points in the four games.
"(Kutsor) was fantastic," said coach Billy Pitcher, whose Bears are a combined 8-0 in the tourney the last two years. "He was such a leader and facilitator but, at the same time, he knew when to be aggressive too. He can play every position. He's a complete player. He's like a point forward."
Cison and sophomore guard Will Tucker were also named to the all-tournament team for Lake Zurich, which got a boost in the finale from Peter DiCerbo, who made his season debut. The 6-3 forward and returning starter missed the first three games of the tourney with a partially torn hip flexor.
"I was just going to warm up (before the Johnsburg game) and not play," DiCerbo said after scoring 19 points and hustling for 10 rebounds. "But then before the game, my coaches said to me, 'Are you fine starting?' I was like, 'I'm ready to go.' ... I felt amazing. I was feeling fresh all week, but we didn't want (the hip flexor) to be a nagging injury."
DiCerbo asserted himself immediately, scoring 9 points in the opening quarter in helping the Bears build a 27-14 cushion. He showed no hesitation or lack of aggressiveness, scoring on a putback, 3-pointer and layup after a half-court steal.
"That's what we were afraid of, because he always plays so hard," Kutsor said. "We thought he was going to push himself too hard."
"He's just a freak of an athlete," Pitcher said of DiCerbo. "He's the best athlete I've ever coached. He's explosive, he's springy, he's got a quick jump, he's strong, and he plays with so much energy too."
Tucker made the varsity as a freshman but played sparingly. He's opened this season by scoring 62 points (15.5 ppg) and knocking down 19 3-pointers. Against Johnsburg, he sank six 3s in a game for the second time this season already.
"Everyone on our team pretty much saw this coming," Kutsor said. "Will's the best shooter I've ever played with in my entire life. He and I work out together all the time so we have a really good teammate connection. He's just an incredible catch-and-shooter."
Tucker took 12 shots against Johnsburg, all from beyond the arc. He also grabbed 5 rebounds.
"He's a gym rat," DiCerbo said. "He's been a great shooter, and he never stops shooting."
Cison, who started for St. Viator as a sophomore last season, averaged a team-best 16.8 points in the tournament. Johnsburg put together a 10-0 run late in the third to get within 57-45, but Cison closed the quarter by scoring on a drive with five seconds left.
"He's so quick and he anticipates well defensively," Pitcher said. "He has a good pullup (jumper), he's a good set 3-point shooter, and he can make plays for other guys."
Zach Toussaint and Jackson LaMarche led Johnsburg with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Mason Sobiesk had 11 points and 7 rebounds.
A year ago, Lake Zurich outlasted Johnsburg on its home court 39-36 for the title. This time, the Bears' 20-point win was fueled by 26-of-52 shooting.
"It was a little less eventful this year," Pitcher said. "We were able to get a lot of guys in, so it was good."