Already with a pair of buzzer-beating game-winners this season, Peter DiCerbo had his Lake Zurich basketball teammate Brian Chmiel covered.
That is, just in case Chmiel's shot was off the mark.
"I was hoping Chmiel overshot it a little and I'd get the putback," DiCerbo joked. "But whatever works."
What worked for Lake Zurich on Saturday afternoon was Chmiel -- the "fourth option" after a timeout, he said -- hitting a 3-pointer with 2 seconds left. The shot, off a pass from Ryan Kutsor, lifted the Bears to a 51-48 win over stunned Highland Park in a Camp Horseshoe Shootout game at Deerfield.
"I knew I had to shoot it because there was (just) seconds left when I caught the ball," Chmiel said. "Kutsor could have forced up a shot, but he made the right basketball play and kicked it. I just shot it."
Lake Zurich (17-8) got a huge effort from DiCerbo, who posted a season- and game-high 23 points and grabbed 14 rebounds, including 8 on the offensive glass. The Bears closed the game with an 8-0 run after Daniel Michelon's free throw put Highland Park (12-12) up 48-43 with 1:13 left.
Needing a big shot, Lake Zurich got it from Chmiel, who drained a 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:06 left. Then after a Highland Park turnover, Kenny Haynes scored on a putback (his only basket of the game) with 43 seconds to go, pulling Lake Zurich even at 48-48.
The Bears got the ball back again after a missed shot and called timeout with 13.5 seconds left.
"We ran (Michael) Bens off (a screen) and we were trying to get him either a look for a 3 or a dump-down to Peter in the post," Lake Zurich coach Billy Pitcher said. "They took away the first look. We said if it breaks down, get it to Kutsor and let him try to make a play."
Kutsor did, drawing a defender at the top of the key before dishing to Chmiel on the left wing. Chmiel had opened the game by hitting a left-corner 3.
It was the first game-winning shot on varsity for Chmiel, who's a two-year varsity player.
"I haven't taken one of those in two years," said Chmiel, who finished with 11 points, sinking 3 of 5 shots from beyond the arc. "Last year (then-senior Nick) Penny would get the ball. This year Kutsor gets the ball. It was a big play, I guess.
"It's nice," Chmiel added, finally flashing a smile.
With Highland Park's tallest starter standing 6 feet 2, the 6-3, 190-pound DiCerbo used his athleticism and strength to take advantage inside.
"He's the biggest, strongest guy on the court," Pitcher said. "He didn't shoot it particularly well from the outside, but we kept saying, 'Go to the basket. Go to the basket.' He's so athletic and he's got such a quick spring. He just bounces back and forth, and he's so strong and tough."
DiCerbo had a personal 12-4 run in the second quarter that helped the Bears build a 26-20 lead. The versatile junior guard/forward has basically played every position on the court this season. He had buzzer-beaters to knock off Grayslake North and Carmel.
"Against a smaller team, I really got to work inside," DiCerbo said. "Against bigger teams, since I'm one of the stronger kids on the team, they try to put me down low too. But against one of these teams (Highland Park), I really got to overwork it down low and try to do everything I can to get tips, rebounds, putbacks, all that."
Ziv Tal and 6-2 Jack Zeidler led Highland Park with 19 and 18 points, respectively. Each Giant hit a pair of 3-pointers.
Kutsor finished with 8 points. Pitcher noted the efforts off the bench from Alex Miller, Luke Kuhn, Haynes and Joe Heffernan, who played only about a minute late in the game but was part of a trap that resulted in a Kutsor steal.
"I'm real proud of the contributions of all the guys," Pitcher said. "It's great when we have contributions from other guys."