Lake Park's depth makes all the difference against Geneva
To beat Geneva for the first time in three tries this season, Lake Park's boys basketball team needed a difference-maker.
The Lancers found six of them.
Everyone who took the court played a pivotal role in Tuesday's 54-45 win over Geneva in the Class 4A Addison Trail sectional semifinals.
Lake Park's victory avenges a pair of DuKane Conference losses to the Vikings and advances the top-seeded Lancers (25-8) to a 7 p.m. Friday title game to face Wednesday's winner between No. 2 Naperville Central (22-10) and No. 3 Glenbard East (22-9).
After being eliminated in last year's sectional semifinals, the Lancers are what they hope is the first of many steps beyond.
"We weren't going to lose to the same team three times," said Lancers guard Montrell Perry. "We came up short last year and got beat twice by them this year. This feels great."
Lake Park hit its magic number of 50 points when Luke Sgarbossa drained a pair of free throws with 35.7 seconds left to lift the lead to 50-42. The Lancers are now 18-1 in games scoring 50-plus, something they failed to do in their first two meetings with the Vikings.
"The first couple games we caught them on their heels and they weren't expecting us to be good," said Geneva senior Josh Preston, the lone returning starter from last year's sectional championship team. "This game we went head-to-head and it was a 2-to-4-point game almost the entire game. They just made the plays at the end and took control."
Drew Johnson scored for No. 6 Geneva (19-13) with 3:41 left to pull his team within 44-42. Lake Park started draining the clock, forcing the Vikings to foul with just over a minute to play.
The strategy seemed to work as the Lancers missed on consecutive trips to the line, but Lake Park's Drew Myers grabbed a pair of offensive rebounds to extend the possessions. Joey Czaja then surrounded Sgarbossa's two free throws with four of his own to seal the win.
"We talked before the game about how we weren't going to lose to them again," Sgarbossa said. "Hopefully, we get it done Friday."
Despite numerous times where the margin was 1 or 2 points, Lake Park led wire-to-wire, including by as many as 9 points in the second, third and fourth quarters. Geneva kept rallying as four players knocked down 3-pointers.
Preston led Geneva with 14 points, while Johnson scored 12 points and Nate Valentine added 8 points in an eight-man rotation featuring only two seniors.
"It was a great year," said Geneva coach Scott Hennig. "It's a credit to these guys for the work they did and the time they put in. I'm proud of these guys."
Sgarbossa scored 10 of his 17 points in the third quarter while Perry scored 8 of his 13 in the first half. Czaja had 12 points, Trevor Montiel 8 points and Joe Harrington rounded out the scoring with 4 points.
"I think that was our best win of the year," said Lancers coach Billy Pitcher. "We got so many contributions. I really liked our balance."