Lake Forest holds off Libertyville in NSC opener

 
By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/4/2021 10:13 PM

Proud new papa Brian Zyrkowski, also known as Libertyville's boys basketball coach, shares the first three letters of his first name with the first three letters of his 4-month-old daughter's name, Brielle.

How sweet.

 

Lake Forest, also known as Libertyville's visiting foe Saturday afternoon, had a letter-perfect start in the North Suburban Conference opener for both teams, exploding to a 17-4 lead at the 2:18 mark of the first quarter.

How splendid.

Libertyville got as close as 3 points twice in the second quarter and trailed only 48-42 at 5:51 of the fourth before bowing 60-49 in a highly charged setting that screamed March Madness in December.

"An unbelievable atmosphere for the kids," LF coach Phil LaScala said after the Wildcats' pulsating, orange-clad student section and the Scouts' spirited student fans settled for an unofficial tie in boisterousness.

"We played poised," he added. "We kept attacking. We made a couple of mistakes, but we bounced back. One of the keys to the win was how well we gang-rebounded in the fourth quarter. It was what we had to do against a team with such a height advantage."

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Lake Forest (4-2, 1-0) struck for the first 10 points of the game, getting at least 2 points from four players. The Scouts' all-state caliber 6-foot-7 junior guard Asa Thomas netted only 4 points in the first 16 minutes; he would finish with 15 points and a team-high 8 rebounds.

Scouts senior guard Sam Gibson edged Wildcats junior guard Jack Huber 18-17 for game-high honors in scoring and snared 5 caroms. Huber answered a Thomas dunk -- off a slick feed from LF senior guard Tommy McCarthy -- by hitting a field goal 2 seconds shy of the third-quarter buzzer, cutting the visitors' lead to 48-37.

"Jack's confidence is way up," Zyrkowski said after his club slipped to 3-2, 0-1 in the NSC. "He made big shots, took care of the ball and played a lot of minutes. You can tell how much work he put into improving his game in the offseason."

Wildcats senior forward Chase Bonder and his 6-8 frame played a significant role in preventing Lake Forest from turning the matinee into a horror show for the hosts. Bonder (14 points, 6 boards) scored 9 of his club's 12 points in the second stanza, with his trey paring the Scouts' advantage to 21-18 at 4:29 and his 3-point play (following a putback) narrowing the gap to 24-21 at 3:23.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Lake Forest's 8-2 run in the fourth quarter secured a 58-46 lead at 1:13. Scouts sophomore Tommy Aberle (13 points), a 6-2 guard who owns a variety of clever, slithering moves in the lane, executed a snappy reverse layup to start the burst and made another bucket 39 seconds later.

Libertyville junior forward/center Cole Bonder scored 5 of his 7 points in the third quarter, when the Scouts outscored Libertyville 20-16.

"What a great high school basketball game," Zyrkowski said. "You could not have asked for a more exciting atmosphere than the one we experienced today. That Lake Forest team is a very good one, a well-coached one. Falling behind, as much as we did early, didn't deflate us. We kept fighting, kept hanging in there, something we demonstrated several times before today's game.

"We learned a lot in 32 minutes of basketball today. I still truly believe that the sky's the limit for our team."

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