Vernon Hills holds off St. Viator

 
By Lou Nunez Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/23/2022 10:10 PM

No matter the sport, no matter whether it be on the prep, collegiate, professional, or international level, postseason play creates an opportunity to make history with each success.

Take Wednesday night's Class 3A Vernon Hills boys basketball regional semifinal between the seventh- seeded hosts and No. 9 seed St. Viator.

 

The Lions could begin a possible repeat of a postseason run it had five years ago when like this season it had only 10 wins, but would go on a magical adventure that found them in a 3A supersectional at its end.

On the other side, the Cougars could earn their 20th win on the season which would be a first since 2015 and the third overall in the program's 22-year history.

Thanks to strong second half start, the Cougars will get that chance at a regional title as they held off a gutty Viator unit 44-43.

Vernon Hills (20-11) will now host second-seeded St. Patrick (20-10) on Friday night. The Shamrocks cruised to an 85-31 win over CICS-Northtown Wednesday.

"Our coaches told us at the beginning that this one would be a close one and a tough battle and our team really wanted this victory," Cougars forward Milan Raval said. "Now we have a chance at a regional championship and it's amazing that I can be a part of it and help our team win by knocking down some big shots."

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And big shots they were as he connected on back-to back 3-pointers as part of 13-3 third quarter that gave Cougars the lead for good as they took a 32-26 lead into the fourth.

When the Lions (10-18) mounted a comeback that pulled them within 34-33 on a pair of free throws by Joey Hernandez, another set of consecutive 3s from the 6-foot-5 Raval gave VH a 40-33 cushion with 2:10 left. -He followed that up by connecting for the last of game-high 25 points at the free-throw line, hitting 4 of 7. Back-to-back 3s from Eli Aldana (7 points) and Hunter Duncan (8 points) in the closing seconds got Viator no closer than the final score.

Junior guard R. J. Gamble led the Lions in the scoring column with 12 points while Erik Rimas added 10 for Vernon Hills.

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