Palatine presses past Lake Zurich
It was written right on the scouting report.
So it really wasn't a surprise what the Palatine boys basketball team was of able to do to host Lake Zurich on Saturday night at the Martin Luther King tournament.
"We knew they were never out of it," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said of Palatine. "I put that in the scouting report. We talked about their Barrington game. Our guys knew all about it."
Palatine has made a habit this season of cutting down big deficits. In a game against Barrington, the Pirates slashed a 36-point deficit to 4 points but weren't quite able to get over the hump. Over the holidays, they were able to complete the job, erasing a 13-point deficit to defeat Oswego.
This time, they were down by as many as 11 points to Lake Zurich in the second half. Thanks to a pressure defense that forced 9 Lake Zurich turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, Palatine added another comeback victory to its resume, 65-60 over Lake Zurich.
The victory moves Palatine to 13-6. Lake Zurich, which committed a total of 20 turnovers, drops to 15-4.
"We knew it was going to be a dog fight," said Palatine senior forward R.J. Smith, who finished with a game- and career-high 28 points, including 12 in the pivotal fourth quarter. "We know you have to be strong with the ball, that defense is key and that you can just never give up."
Palatine was down 55-46 midway through the fourth quarter when senior forward Justin Chaney (19 points on 5 three-pointers) scored a flurry of 8 straight points. He drained 2 three-pointers and nailed a pair of free throws. That cut Palatine's deficit to 55-54.
The Pirates, getting stops and forcing turnovers, then scored 6 more unanswered points to take a 60-55 lead and full control of the game with just 1:29 left.
"I think it was just staying the course and trusting in each other and how we want to play and understanding it's a 32-minute game," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said. "We've been talking all year about playing until the echo of the final buzzer and I think we did a nice job of doing that.
"Our defensive pressure got us back into the game. We got away from our man press and went back to our zone press in the fourth quarter and maybe that change of scenery helped us out."
It also helped that Palatine was able to keep Lake Zurich sharpshooter Mike Travlos relatively in check. Travlos had a career-high 36 points earlier in the day against Carmel. Against Palatine, Travlos finished with 15 points, including just 3 points in the second half.
The scoring slack for the Bears was picked up by Will McClaughry (team-high 19 points) and Jack O'Neill (10 points).
"We just stopped doing what we were doing (well in the first half), which was driving to the basket and getting easy ones," McClaughry said. "We knew they were a team that can come back. We haven't really had trouble (putting games away), but in this one we just kind of collapsed.
"It hurts now, but it will hurt more in March if we let something like this happen then."