It's OK, coach -- the final horn has sounded, and you can breathe easily now.
Lake Zurich boys basketball coach Billy Pitcher was obviously relieved after his guys pulled away from host Lake Forest 53-43 in North Suburban action Friday evening.
It marked the first time in his 8 years at the helm that the Bears had defeated the Scouts in Lake Forest.
"Feels great to finally beat them here," said Pitcher, who troops finished 3-1 and fifth in the Pekin Holiday tournament last weekend and improved to 10-4 overall and 2-2 in NSC play after the win Friday. "We were relentless on the offensive boards and played with a lot of grit. We were outsized, but I'm really proud of our character and how we hung in there."
This was a good, clean heavyweight fight between two team that frequently are neck-and-neck when they play each other.
On Friday, both didn't disappoint.
In fact, defense was on display and shots were at a premium in the first half, to the tune of four ties and three lead changes.
Senior forward Ben Gibson's pair of free throws gave the Scouts the lead 19-18 at intermission. Gibson had the hot hand early for Lake Forest, scoring 7 of his team-high 17 points in the first half.
The Bears countered with senior guard Ryan Kutsor draining 6 of his game-high 20 points, and sophomore guard Will Tucker (6 points) canning a couple of treys in the first period.
The teams traded punches until the 3:15 mark of the third, when Lake Zurich seemed to gain some momentum.
Junior guard JR Cison's trey gave the visitors the lead for good at 30-28, while the 1-2 punch of Kutsor and senior forward Pete DiCerbo (9 points) also had plenty to do with the outcome.
"They are our two studs and put the game on their backs," said Pitcher. "Both know how to create space and are shot-makers."
Indeed they are, as both chipped in 5 points in the third. Cison ended up with 7 of his 9 points in the frame.
"We didn't have the energy and speed in the first half," said Kutsor, who also snagged 10 rebounds on the night. "It was a lot better in the second half. We knew we needed to score more and we had more consistent stretches. It's been a long time and it's great to get a win here. Plus, we didn't want to fall to 1-3 in conference."
Besides the final margin of victory, the biggest deficit was 45-37 after a jumper by Cison with 2:40 left in regulation.
Ahead 46-39, Lake Zurich converted 8 of 10 free throws in the final 1:45 to help put an exclamation point on the win.