Vernon Hills knocks off Maine West in 2 OTs
As it made the trek to Des Plaines for it's Central Suburban North boys basketball finale at Maine West, Vernon Hills still had an outside shot at earning a share of the division title if it could procure a win from the host Warriors and get a Maine East home win over first-place Deerfield.
Add to the mix that Cougars coach Matt McCarty would join the contest in progress as he attended Libertyville's Senior Night celebration to support his son Dylan.
By the time McCarty arrived just before halftime, little did he know that a spirited Maine West squad, on its Senior Night, would put together an effort that gave him those first two periods he missed back with a fifth and sixth that his squad would find a way to survive and hold off the hosts 46-43 in double overtime before a near-capacity crowd at Rider Gym.
The Cougars (19-10, 7-3) ended up finishing tied for second in the CSL North with Niles North, which defeated Highland Park Friday. Both ended up a game behind Deerfield, which earned the title outright with a 48-31 win at Maine East.
"It's a lot of fun," said VH assistant coach Riaz Hoveydai. "A lot of respect to (Maine West coach) Tom (Prokopij). They do an awesome job in this environment. We knew it was going to be tough coming to Maine West and win. It's something that not a lot of teams do because of how good they are playing together on their home floor. Our senior group last year went through a lot of trial and tribulation. So they constantly remind each other, 'We've been here, we know how to win OT games.' It took us two overtimes. It was fun. I had to give Mac some make up time coming from his son's senior night."
The Warriors (6-19, 2-8) would force the extra sessions by rallying from a 12-point deficit midway through the third led by senior guard Julius Murray, who tallied 10 of his game-high 20 points as part of 17-5 run over the final 12 minutes of regulation. He topped it off with a layup off an Isaac Pittman feed to even things at 36 with 22 seconds left in the fourth.
After both teams finished the first OT even at 41, Cougars junior guard Milan Raval scored the go-ahead points for the Cougars on a drive to the hoop with 2:36 left for a 43-41 lead. Two Murray free throws came between a Justin St. Louis free throw and a pair by Nolan Lazor that made it 46-43. Maine West had one last chance to force a third OT period but it was snuffed out by a block from 6-foot-5 senior Erik Rimas on an attempt from beyond the arc by the Warriors' Andy Olsen as time expired.
"Not much time on the clock, he wasn't going to do anything else, so I just went up and luckily got the block," said Rimas, who shared team-high honors with Raval with 12 points each.
Murray applauded both his teammates' effort and positive attitude in defeat.
"All season we've been the underdogs and we've been known to bring it (to our opponents)" he said.