Improving Palatine sinks Lake Zurich
The final 16 minutes of the game have not been kind to Palatine this boys basketball season.
So when the Pirates went to the fourth quarter with host Lake Zurich during play in the fifth annual Lake Zurich MLK Classic tied 32-32, it was time to turn the corner.
The Pirates took the lead early in the fourth and never gave it back, as they stunned the Bears 43-40 to move to 3-0 in tournament play. Earlier in the day, the Pirates topped Maine East 58-41.
"We have had trouble closing out games this year," said Palatine coach Eric Millstone. "To come in here and do it against a good team will do a lot for our confidence."
Palatine (6-13) will close out pool play at noon Monday against Addison Trail. Lake Zurich (11-5), which started the day by beating Maine East, dropped its first game in two years in the tournament and will take on Vernon Hills at 9 a.m. Monday.
"This was a huge win for us," said Palatine junior Johnny O'Shea. "This is what we call turning the corner, and we can now get as many wins as we can and continue to build our confidence."
O'Shea was critical to the Pirates' success, especially in the third quarter, when he tallied 9 of his game-best 18 points to bring the Pirates back from a seven-point deficit on more than one occasion.
"Johnny, like the rest of our football guys, needed some time to get his legs back," Millstone said. "Now that he has his legs, you are starting to see the kind of player that he really is."
A free throw from Michael Bens gave Lake Zurich its last lead at 33-32. Palatine never led by more than 3 down the stretch.
"(Palatine) was definitely more physical than us and more aggressive than us," said Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher. "This is a real low point for us right now. Very frustrating for us that we didn't take care of the basketball and played with a real lack of awareness on the floor when we needed to."
Lake Zurich pulled even on a 3-pointer from Bens with 1:54 to go but failed to make a field goal the rest of the way. The Bears had the ball in the final seconds with a shot to tie or take the lead, but a long 3-pointer at the buzzer by Brett Hensley hit the front of the rim and bounced away.
Palatine held Lake Zurich leading scorer Ryan Kutsor to just 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor. The Pirates also got 11 points and 15 rebounds from junior Cortez Hogans.
• Against Maine East, Jake Moertl led the way for Palatine with 18 points -- all of which came on 3s. Hogans had 13 points and O'Shea had 10.
The Pirates led 21-12 and took firm control by outscoring Maine East 16-3 in the second quarter, during which Scott Elter scored all of his 6 points.