Libertyville wins regional, sets school record for wins
After losing handily to Libertyville in both regular-season meetings, it was apparent that No. 7-seed Warren wasn't going away easily in its Class 4A Libertyville boys basketball regional title game against the No. 2 Wildcats Friday night.
Both teams got off to slow starts offensively with a 6-6 tie after one quarter before the Blue Devils took a 17-14 lead into halftime in the pressure-packed defensive struggle played before a rowdy crowd on both sides of the gym.
Warren (15-15) maintained a slim 29-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter. But a 7-point run by Libertyville (26-7) helped pave the way to a 41-37 victory for the Wildcats as they recorded their 11th IHSA regional championship in school history as well as a school record for wins in a season.
Libertyville will play No. 3 seed Stevenson in the Barrington sectional semifinals Wednesday at 7 p.m.
Back-to-back 3-point baskets by Libertyville's Jack Huber and Chase Bonder along with a free throw by Cole Bonder gave the Wildcats their biggest lead of the game at 37-34 with 2:46 to play.
Senior Drew Dolan kept Warren's hopes alive as his 3-pointer tied the game at 37-37 with 2:18 remaining. But 2 free throws by Chase Bonder (8-for-8 free throws) gave Libertyville the lead for keeps at 39-37 with 2:02 to go before Huber added a free throw to boost the lead to 40-37 with 43.5 seconds left.
After a timeout with 24 seconds to play, Dolan (game-high 15 points) missed a 3-pointer with six seconds remaining before Huber (12 points) added a free throw with 2.6 seconds left to account for the final score.
"We know it's always hard to beat a team three times and we knew we had to turn up our energy in the second half," said Chase Bonder, who scored a team-high 13 points. "I give them all the credit, they were a really good team tonight. And in the end, we were able to take care of the ball and that helped us get the win."
Free throw shooting was a huge factor as the Wildcats hit 18-for-24 from the line to just 3-for-4 for Warren. The Blue Devils were whistled for 19 fouls to just 8 fouls for the Wildcats.
"Libertyville played great defense. They kept mixing their defense up, and we didn't get a lot of open shots," said Warren coach Jon Jasnoch. "I thought we played great defense, but they hit their free throws."
Warren senior Nathaniel Harris scored 10 points while teammate Howard Mullen had 7 points. Junior Will Buchert scored 7 points for Libertyville.
"We knew it was going to be a fight in the regional final. (Warren) played hard and our guys did a good job settling down in the second half," said Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski, whose team beat the previous school record of 25 wins set in 1991.
"We both know each other very well, and tonight felt like an NSC championship game so it's nice to be moving on to the next round."