Deerfield stands tall against Grant

 
By John Bumbales
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/27/2019 9:47 PM

With players standing at 6-foot-10, 6-foot-9, and 6-foot-7 in its lineup, No. 5-seed Deerfield's size advantage was bound to pose a serious challenge for No. 12 Grant Wednesday night at the Class 4A Wheeling boys basketball regional.

The Bulldogs did play the Warriors tough throughout the semifinal contest as they made a very late comeback attempt in the fourth quarter hoping to pull off an impossible victory as they trailed by as many as 15 points with 2:40 to play.

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But in the end, Deerfield (20-10) came through at the free throw line down the stretch to pull away from Grant for a 48-35 victory to advance to the regional championship game against No. 4 Mundelein Friday at 7 p.m.

The Warriors set the tone early as they built a 12-4 advantage after one quarter. But the gutsy Bulldogs (19-13) outscored Deerfield 10-9 in the second quarter to go into halftime trailing 21-14 in this defensive struggle.

The third quarter also remained a defensive dogfight as the teams played to a 9-9 draw with the Warriors taking a 30-23 lead into the fourth quarter.

The Bulldogs actually trailed 30-20 before senior guard Henry Kusiak's 3-pointer with only one second left in the third quarter cut the gap to 30-23 for some potential momentum.

But 6-10 Deerfield junior center Brandon Lieb (game-high 18 points, 9 rebounds) scored on two quick inside baskets, and the Warriors had their biggest lead of the game at 34-23 with 6:38 to play.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Their height makes it difficult to get shots, they're a good ballclub, and their height gave us problems," said Grant coach Wayne Bosworth, whose team really struggled from beyond the 3-point arc. "We couldn't get many clean looks so give Deerfield credit. We shot 4 of 17 or 4 of 18 from 3."

After Deerfield built a 42-27 lead with 2:40 to play, Grant put together a late comeback with a 3-pointer by Torren Grana-Curry, and a 3-pointer by Kusiak cutting the lead to 42-33 with 1:52 remaining.

Then Grant's Hunter Waszkowski just missed a 3-pointer in and out that would have cut the lead to 42-36 with 1:25 left. But the Warriors were able to grab the rebound and salt the victory away with 6-for-6 shooting at the foul line in the final 1:11 of the contest.

Waszkowski and Kusiak led the Bulldogs in scoring with 11 points each while senior Ara Emerzian hit double figures for Deerfield with 10 points. 6-foot-7 Deerfield sophomore Walter Mattingly chipped in 8 points while Grana-Curry, and Michael John Smith scored 6 point apiece for Grant.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Our guys played with good composure tonight, Grant is very physical, but when we're methodical we're pretty good," said Deerfield coach Dan McKendrick, whose team lost at Mundelein by two points back in November. "In the first half he (Leib) was a little out of sorts and he seemed to be rushing everything. But in the second half he calmed down and he got all of the big rebounds we needed him to get."

The Bulldogs will really miss the presence of their senior class, and Bosworth had nothing but praise for his team leaders, who won the Northern Lake County Conference this season.

"They're a no-quit type of group, and nine out of 12 guys are seniors who played together their whole lives," said Bosworth. "Our team won the conference championship, a 19-win season is nothing to hang your head about, and I'm just proud of their work ethic."

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