Moore is better as Libertyville beats Zion-Benton
Will Moore could not have done more.
Not to get to his left ankle healthy again.
And not to put together a better performance on the basketball court for Libertyville than the 6-foot-5 senior forward/center did on Wednesday night.
Two weeks after spraining his left ankle, which sidelined him three games and most of the Wildcats' contest at Lake Forest last Friday night, Moore enjoyed the best game of his two-year varsity career. He scored a career-high 27 points, and Libertyville built a big second-half lead on visiting Zion-Benton before hanging on for a 78-69 win in North Suburban Conference action.
"That's what he can do," Wildcats coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "He's a tough player."
As for the ankle, which Moore hurt in the first half against Stevenson on Jan. 14?
"It's a hundred percent now," Moore said.
Blake Ellingson added 14 points for Libertyville (13-7, 3-4), and his layup had the home team up 67-47 with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. Damontae Taylor led Zion-Benton (14-8, 4-3) with 24 points, including 10 in the fourth and 3 dunks, and Amar Augillard added 20 points.
Moore, who had never had a 20-point game as a varsity player, shot 12 of 16 from the floor, mainly finishing in the lane while also draining a couple of jumpers.
"My teammates were getting me the ball," said Moore, who also had 5 rebounds, including 4 on the offensive glass. "I took advantage of it. I made my moves. At the beginning of the season I don't think I was as confident as I am now. [Zyrkowski] gives me the green light. He's got so much confidence in me, and my confidence has just skyrocketed."
Zyrkowski credited Moore for his work ethic to get back on the court again.
"He's been in here every day," said Zyrkowski, standing outside the trainer's room. "During the school day, he's in here three times. He's in here during his lunch, his study hall, getting treatment."
Leading 40-36 at halftime after making 16 of 30 shots, including six 3-pointers, Libertyville switched from a man-to-man defense to a 3-2 zone. While Zion-Benton coach Bob Worthington said he thinks his team is good against either defense, the Zee-Bees scored only 9 points in the third quarter, while allowing 21.
"At halftime, 'Z' said, 'Forget it. We're going to a zone,' because we gave up 36 points in the first half," Moore said. "Give credit to [Zion-Benton]. They really can get to the rim, they're quick, and they got a lot of guys who can score. In the first half we struggled with that."
After Ellingson's basket put Libertyville up 20, Augillard's 3-pointer jump-started a 16-0 run, as the Zee-Bees' pressure yielded turnovers and points in transition.
"Zion is very long," Zyrkowski said. "We talked to our guys about attacking and being aggressive, and I don't think we were as aggressive during that stretch. We were just passive. We were waiting to be trapped."
Kayleb Naylor (17 points) got Zion-Benton within 69-67 with 2 free throws with 2:01 left. But Libertyville's Patrick Graham, who had 8 points and 8 rebounds coming off the bench, made 2 free throws and then scored on the baseline.
"It wasn't what we wanted, but our guys rallied back like I knew they would," Worthington said. "The ball didn't bounce our way down the stretch a little bit. Some of those shots that we normally make didn't go in, and we didn't necessarily get the stops we wanted."
Jackson Watson (three 3s) and Chase Bonder added 9 points each for Libertyville, which snapped the Zee-Bees' seven-game winning streak.
"I give them a lot of credit," Worthington said of the Wildcats. "I like Brian a lot. I like what we does with his kids. They fight. A tribute to the North Suburban."