Lake Forest holds off Libertyville in NSC opener
Proud new papa Brian Zyrkowski, also known as Libertyville's boys basketball coach, shares the first three letters of his first name with the first three letters of his 4-month-old daughter's name, Brielle.
Lake Forest, also known as Libertyville's visiting foe Saturday afternoon, had a letter-perfect start in the North Suburban Conference opener for both teams, exploding to a 17-4 lead at the 2:18 mark of the first quarter.
Libertyville got as close as 3 points twice in the second quarter and trailed only 48-42 at 5:51 of the fourth before bowing 60-49 in a highly charged setting that screamed March Madness in December.
"An unbelievable atmosphere for the kids," LF coach Phil LaScala said after the Wildcats' pulsating, orange-clad student section and the Scouts' spirited student fans settled for an unofficial tie in boisterousness.
"We played poised," he added. "We kept attacking. We made a couple of mistakes, but we bounced back. One of the keys to the win was how well we gang-rebounded in the fourth quarter. It was what we had to do against a team with such a height advantage."
Lake Forest (4-2, 1-0) struck for the first 10 points of the game, getting at least 2 points from four players. The Scouts' all-state caliber 6-foot-7 junior guard Asa Thomas netted only 4 points in the first 16 minutes; he would finish with 15 points and a team-high 8 rebounds.
Scouts senior guard Sam Gibson edged Wildcats junior guard Jack Huber 18-17 for game-high honors in scoring and snared 5 caroms. Huber answered a Thomas dunk -- off a slick feed from LF senior guard Tommy McCarthy -- by hitting a field goal 2 seconds shy of the third-quarter buzzer, cutting the visitors' lead to 48-37.
"Jack's confidence is way up," Zyrkowski said after his club slipped to 3-2, 0-1 in the NSC. "He made big shots, took care of the ball and played a lot of minutes. You can tell how much work he put into improving his game in the offseason."
Wildcats senior forward Chase Bonder and his 6-8 frame played a significant role in preventing Lake Forest from turning the matinee into a horror show for the hosts. Bonder (14 points, 6 boards) scored 9 of his club's 12 points in the second stanza, with his trey paring the Scouts' advantage to 21-18 at 4:29 and his 3-point play (following a putback) narrowing the gap to 24-21 at 3:23.
Lake Forest's 8-2 run in the fourth quarter secured a 58-46 lead at 1:13. Scouts sophomore Tommy Aberle (13 points), a 6-2 guard who owns a variety of clever, slithering moves in the lane, executed a snappy reverse layup to start the burst and made another bucket 39 seconds later.
Libertyville junior forward/center Cole Bonder scored 5 of his 7 points in the third quarter, when the Scouts outscored Libertyville 20-16.
"What a great high school basketball game," Zyrkowski said. "You could not have asked for a more exciting atmosphere than the one we experienced today. That Lake Forest team is a very good one, a well-coached one. Falling behind, as much as we did early, didn't deflate us. We kept fighting, kept hanging in there, something we demonstrated several times before today's game.
"We learned a lot in 32 minutes of basketball today. I still truly believe that the sky's the limit for our team."