Libertyville rolls by Hersey
It wasn't pretty.
In fact, the big toe of Libertyville senior forward Patrick Graham was downright nasty.
But his game on Saturday night in a 58-44 nonconference victory over visiting Hersey was a thing of beauty. And if a bloodied toe was the price tag, Graham was just fine with it.
"It's go hard every game and give it your all," Graham said as he sat behind the bench with his sock off while the bent up nail on his right big toe bled and oozed. "That's the way I play."
Graham went hard late in the fourth quarter to preserve a steal, saving it from going out of bounds, and then he banged his foot against the bleachers as his momentum carried him up a few rows.
That caused the bloodied toenail.
He went really hard on two thunderous dunks, too, his first two dunks on the season.
Graham also hit a clutch 3-pointer in scoring a game-high 18 points in one of his most inspired efforts of the season.
"I just came out with more energy than I have recently," Graham said. "At the beginning of the season, I was playing at this level, but then there was this lull, and it wasn't great.
"I also play soccer and volleyball and I'm always playing at that 100 percent effort and that (lull) just wasn't like me. I was sluggish or something. But now I'm back at my game and I like it a lot."
Graham and the Wildcats, who turned a 5-point halftime lead (30-25) into a 14-point advantage at the end of the third quarter by reeling off a 9-2 run out of halftime, liked the satisfaction of getting a little revenge on Hersey.
Last year, Hersey ended Libertyville's season in the state tournament.
"They beat us last year in the regional and we played at the next level tonight because we really wanted to beat them," Graham said. "Being in the locker room after that game last year was one of the saddest moments of my life personally, and for my teammates, too. So we knew we had to play really hard to beat them."
Libertyville, which improves to 18-8, also got double-figures out of Will Moore and Jackson Watson, both of whom finished with 11 points apiece. Watson had three 3-pointers.
Hersey, which was down just 20-18 at the end of the first quarter, got a team-high 12 points out of junior guard Ethan Roberts before he reinjured his left ankle, which kept him out of seven games earlier this season.
"It was just unlucky," Roberts said of coming down funny on his ankle while he fell into a scrum for the ball. "I had done all this rehab coming off an injury and I had been back for three games. I was probably at 95 percent at least and I felt fine and then all of a sudden, I just got unlucky. I fell on my ankle and I felt two pops. I don't think it's as bad as last time. Hopefully not."
Hersey drops to 9-18 on the season and has had a tough time stringing together four consistent quarters.
"We've played a lot of teams close for 28 minutes, 26 minutes, 30 minutes sometimes. We just have to work on righting the ship at the right time," Hersey coach Austin Scott said. "Libertyville is really well-coached and well-disciplined and answered the bell, but we have to get better at throwing the first punch instead of trying to swing out of the corner. But we still have time to correct those issues. We're a work in progress still."