A strong move in the paint Tuesday night yielded a basket that put Ryan Kutsor in Lake Zurich's record books.
It was early in the second quarter in a North Suburban Conference battle with Stevenson in which Kutsor scored his 1,000th career point. And the milestone was acknowledged by the public address announcer.
"I knew it was coming up kind of soon, I didn't know I could get it this game, though. I thought it was a little further away than that," Kutsor said of his scoring milestone. "But it's a milestone that I've kind of been shooting for since the beginning of this season ever since I knew I had a chance at it. It feels really good to hit 1,000."
But what ended up being Kutsor's most important points in the scorebook were some run-of-the-mill free throws in the fourth quarter. Kutsor went 6-of-7 at the free throw line in the quarter, and hit five in the final 90 seconds, to help Lake Zurich close out a 44-41 close-shave victory over the visiting Patriots. In the teams' previous meeting earlier this season, Stevenson had beaten Lake Zurich on a buzzer-beater by sophomore Matt Ambrose.
"This was a game of perseverance," said Kutsor, who finished with a game-high 17 points and was 9-of-11 at the free throw line for the game. "We played hard the whole game and we never gave up. And it paid off.
"(Stevenson) is a rival team for us. This is a team we always want to beat and after losing like that (buzzer-beater) last time, we really wanted to get the win."
Lake Zurich, which improves to 20-6 overall and 7-4 in the North Suburban Conference and is just behind Stevenson and Libertyville in the standings, had a lead for most of the game, but usually by only the slimmest of margins. The Bears' biggest advantage was 6 points (34-28) heading into the fourth quarter.
Twice Stevenson, which had won eight games in a row entering this game and now drops to 15-7 overall and 8-3 in the NSC, cut that deficit to just 3 points in the fourth quarter, on free throws by Jackson Qualley (13 points) and a post move by Nick Bonk, but that was as close as it got.
"We were playing catch-up the whole game, last time we played them we were ahead the whole time," said Bonk, who scored a team-high 14 points for Stevenson. "We just struggled to contain Kutsor and JR (Cison) tonight. That was the problem."
Cison, Lake Zurich's junior point guard, scored 14 points on two 3-pointers. He came up with 5 big points in the third quarter and hit a buzzer-beater before the halftime horn to give Lake Zurich a 23-20 halftime lead and momentum.
"Our defense was good and we were able to get JR a little more involved this time than last time," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "But it was actually a pretty similar game as last time. We were able to just have an extra-possession lead this time.
"They're tough. We tried to take away their threes, and they hurt us inside with Bonk and drives to the basket. But this is big for us. We needed this. Guys were super motivated and we had the carrot out there of having lost to them last time. We had a little bit of extra energy and extra edge and sometimes in a close game, that can be the difference."