Prospect shuts down, stuns Buffalo Grove
That was the word to live by for Prospect's boys basketball team at the Class 4A regional final at Grant High School Friday night.
Prospect, the No. 11 seed knocked third-seeded Buffalo Grove out of the state playoffs with a 45-26 win.
Buffalo Grove, the Mid-Suburban East co-champions, had beaten the Knights twice during the regular season, once in overtime.
The win propels the Knights into their own sectional Tuesday when they will play Mundelein, a 61-40 winner over Fremd. It also marks their first regional championship since 2009.
"I give credit to my staff of Brad Rathe, Gary Judson, and Antonio Gardner for helping to come up with the defenses that we used in these two games," said Prospect head coach John Camardella.
Seldom used during the regular season, junior Luke Zardzin, an all-conference running back on the Knights' football team, played one of the biggest roles in the Knights' (16-14) two wins at Grant.
Junior Chase Larsen's role Friday night was another key factor.
"We had to stop Nate Cole," said Camardella. "Luke had shut down Damian Zivak of Barrington Wednesday. We had to use him in the same role on Cole. Cole just lit us up last time with like 18 points and 12 rebounds. We couldn't let that happen again. Ben Osowski gets some credit in giving Zardzin some rest."
Cole, one of the top players in the Mid-Suburban East, was held scoreless. BG sophomore Kam Craft was limited to just 11 points.
"Prospect was very physical and disciplined tonight," said Buffalo Grove coach Keith Peterson, whose team finished the season at 24-8. "Early on we had some good looks that we normally lock down but we didn't tonight. We usually do a good job in finding the advantage that we have on offense with our matchups. But it didn't happen tonight."
Prospect used a patient offense to build an 18-12 lead with 2:52 left in the first half on Owen Schneider's 3-pointer.
A basket by Craft and a free throw from Steph Harris cut the Knights' lead to 18-15 at halftime.
Leading 20-19 in the third quarter, Prospect outscored Buffalo Grove 10-2 for a 30-21 lead before a layup by Tyler Kipley (10 points) at the buzzer cut the lead back to 30-23.
The fourth quarter was all Prospect.
Craft scored the Bison's only basket on a 3-pointer after the Knights had opened up a 37-23 lead with 2:47 left in the game.
Prospect hit 11 of 17 free throws in the fourth quarter.
"I wanted to embrace my game on defense," said Zardzin, who had 6 of the Knights' 25 rebounds. "I took it personally that I wanted to help shut them down. I didn't get much playing time during the regular season but now I started two regional games."
Larsen echoed Zardzin's effort.
"He hardly had any meaningful minutes during the season," said Larsen. "He's the hardest worker I've ever met. He's a player who's made of iron."
Larsen was pleased with his 17-point performance, which led the Knights on offense.
"I've been consistent but on a lower level on scoring," said Larsen. "Having a game like this in a regional final really built up my confidence. Give credit to our bench. They had less than 24 hours to get us ready for this game. It was huge, the energy we got from the bench.
"I think we frustrated them by slowing them down a lot. We had long possessions, we were patient and we were able to get good shots."
Matt Woloch scored 10 points for Prospect.
"Our bench players have played so many different roles this season," said Camardella. "They really bought into what we are doing and now we have a nice run going."