A real crowd-pleaser for Lake Zurich
The really special teams, those that make history, don't come around too often.
That's why they're usually easy to identify.
Lake Zurich boys basketball coach Billy Pitcher could see the potential of this year's team from miles away, shining like a bright light in a dark sky.
"We told our guys right away in the summer, when we played back and forth with a really good Belleville West team, one of the best teams in the state, that this would be a special group," Pitcher said. "I told them this was the most talented team in my eight years here. "It took us a little while to figure out our chemistry but you always want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the year and that's what we're doing right now."
The Bears are playing a caliber of basketball that is history-making.
On Friday, No. 1-seeded Lake Zurich scorched the nets with red-hot 3-point shooting, got off to an early lead and held off a scrappy Barrington team 69-60 in a Class 4A sectional championship game held at Lake Zurich High School.
It is the very first sectional championship for the Lake Zurich boys in school history.
"I almost can't even describe how this feels," said Lake Zurich senior guard Ryan Kutsor, who scored 18 points and was a tough 1-2 punch with junior guard JR Cison, who finished with a game-high 24 points. "It almost still hasn't set in with me that we're the first team in Lake Zurich history to win a sectional. It's been our goal. It's been a goal since my sophomore year when we lost in the sectional championship game. "It feels so good."
Lake Zurich, which improves to 26-7, will now face Evanston, a 69-57 winner over New Trier, in Tuesday's 8 p.m supersectional at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. The winner of that game will advance to the Class 4A state finals in Peoria.
Barrington, which was seeded No. 2 in the sectional, closes its season at 24-7.
It was tough for Barrington to overcome Lake Zurich's big start from 3-point range.
The Bears were 5-of-6 from 3-point range in the first quarter alone. That gave Lake Zurich an 18-10 lead heading into the second quarter, and that morphed into a 12-point halftime lead (35-23).
Overall, Lake Zurich drained 11 3-pointers on the game, including 4 by Kutsor, 4 by JR Cison and 2 by Will Tucker.
"We just couldn't get over the hump," said Barrington coach Bryan Tucker, whose team won both the MSL West title and a regional title, the first time the program has achieved both feats in the same season since 1991. "They (Lake Zurich) shot well. They were hitting contested shots. They are talented. They certainly stepped up and when the spotlight was on, they had results."
Barrington stepped it up late in the second half and saw some impressive results of its own with a press that forced Lake Zurich turnovers and yielded quick baskets on the other end.
The Broncos, down by 13 points in the fourth quarter, cut Lake Zurich's lead to 6 points with about 2 minutes left when Jack Reinhard (11 points) converted on an old-fashioned 3-point play in the paint.
"We fought all the way to the end and that shows that we have a lot of pride in our team," said Barrington senior guard Anthony Spann who tied teammate Jason Boock in scoring with a team-high 15 points. "Lake Zurich shot real well and you've got to give them credit. You have to tip your hat to them.
"But we were always in it because we fought and fought and that's just in our character. It's the way we've been all season. We had our chances, but they just came out on top."