Lisle overcomes slow start to beat Wilmington
A good crowd and a loud band had Lisle fired up on senior night Friday against Wilmington, but the Lions' shooters still took a little while to get going.
By the time Connor Nigro put back a teammate's miss for Lisle's first basket, more than five minutes had been played and the visiting Wildcats had built a 4-point lead.
But no need to worry. Senior Raymond Bandzoumouna quickly dropped in a pair of 3-pointers and the Lions were off and running, taking a 6-point first-quarter lead despite the slow start and eventually holding off Wilmington 60-53 to keep alive hopes of winning the Illinois Central Eight Conference boys basketball title.
Bandzoumouna added two more 3s in the second half on his way to a team-leading 17 points as Lisle improved to 15-11 overall and 9-2 in the conference.
"After the first one went in and then the second one went in, I started feeling a little hot and I thought I could contribute from the perimeter," the 6-foot-2 guard/forward said. "The energy was high. We used that to get going and maintain the lead."
With Demetrius King Jr. scoring 7 of his 13 points through two quarters, Lisle led 31-20 at the half, using an 18-4 run to turn that early 6-2 deficit into a 20-10 lead following a three-point play by Joshua Farrell.
Lions coach Mark LaScala has his team playing its best with the postseason just around the corner. Friday's victory was the school's eighth in 10 outings.
"They're a very well-coached team and both teams came out with a defensive mindset," LaScala said. "It was tough to get offense early. But it's contagious (the scoring). I think we were well balanced. We've been getting contributions with a lot of guys."
The Lions were not great at the free-throw line -- making 12 of 22 foul shots -- but tough work on the offensive boards allowed them to take advantage of numerous second chances. Six-foot-4 forward Anthony Raineri, one of five seniors starters, tallied 9 points and had 10 rebounds against the Wildcats. Five of his boards came on the offensive end and King added four offensive boards as the home team hurt Wilmington with multiple second chances, some of which resulted in baskets following a miss from the free-throw line.
"Anthony was one point shy of a double-double, and some of those offensive rebounds were big," LaScala said.
To the Wildcats' credit, they pulled to within 44-37 after three quarters, and when Ben Kreitz heated up for 13 points in the fourth quarter, the Lions had to sweat a bit until the final horn.
"It was a great high school atmosphere," Wilmington coach Bill Karavites said. "The band, senior night ... I thought both teams played hard and I'm proud of both teams. I'm friends with coach LaScala. I was proud of his team and I was proud with how hard our kids played. That's all you can ask for in high school basketball. It was a great high school game."
The Wildcats, who lost by just 3 points at home against Lisle earlier this season, dropped to 9-14 overall and 2-9 in the league.