Libertyville builds big lead, knocks off Prospect
The opening game of the 45th St. Viator Thanksgiving Tournament saw the two teams tipping off, Prospect and Libertyville, looking to build on successful campaigns that each had the previous winter.
The North Suburban runner-up Wildcats reached a Class 4A sectional final in a 27-win campaign while the Knights won 18 while earning a strong second-place finish in the Mid-Suburban East.
It would be on the strength of a pair of first half runs plus an ability to hold off a late charge that Libertyville used to lay down its first building block on the new season earning a 68-57 decision Monday evening at Cahill Gym.
"In these early (season) games you're going to have some big runs, the other team is going to have some big runs. It's about closing out games," Wildcats coach Brian Zyrkowski said.
"You've got to close out games. If you can close them early, it only makes your team go a little bit better. Credit them (Prospect). Their best player (senior guard Alex) Georgakas goes out of the game and their guys stepped up. That's what it's about early on. Your guys have to step up. Our senior leadership was able to get us through."
Trailing 5-3 with less than three minutes having gone by, that senior leadership began Libertyville's first surge on a Henry Eads putback. Then the first of two baskets from forward Cole Bonder followed by 5 straight points from guard Will Buchert fueled a 15-0 tear that left the Wildcats up 18-5 after with 26 seconds remaining before period's end.
The lead grew to 42-22 at the break as it outscored Prospect 24-14 in the second. Libertyville (1-0) took a 55-39 into the fourth when Georgakas (team-high 13 points) suffered a facial injury in the early part of the final stanza.
It was at that point that the Knights (0-1) went on a 10-5 run that pulled them within 61-54 on a Cole Chapman putback with 2:24 left.
A Blaise LaVista triple followed by back-to-back baskets inside from Aidyn Boone (game-high 23 points) settled matters for the Wildcats in the game's closing minutes.
Buchert (14 points) and La Vista (11) joined Boone in double-figures while Chapman (12 points) and Jake Parisi (10) helped pace the Prospect effort.
Boone spoke of the return of his team on the hardwood and the anticipation of getting back.
"(I was) really excited to get back in the season, in the flow with the guys," Boone said. "It's a ton of fun just being able to play and be able to see us (play) against good competition."
Prospect coach Brad Rathe looks forward to his unit's second game in the tournament Tuesday night against Antioch.
"For a lot of our kids this is their first real varsity experience," Rathe said. "You kind of forget that and you want them to play hard but at the same time there were some nerves there."