Palatine downs Libertyville to cap strong weekend

 
By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/3/2022 9:22 PM

Palatine boys basketball coach Eric Millstone benched his whiteboard during a timeout Saturday afternoon.

The decision was made in the final minute of the fourth quarter at Libertyville, with his Pirates leading the Wildcats 48-42.

 

Millstone's son, senior guard Sam Millstone, had triggered the timeout after skidding his 5-foot-11 frame to secure a clutch steal near Libertyville's bench.

"I didn't need it," Eric Millstone said of the wipeable coaching device. "I looked at the guys in our huddle instead and told them, 'It's now all about your head, heart and legs. Go out there and play smart, play hard.

"Games don't always come down to Xs and Os."

Palatine's 52-42 victory came down to 'D'.

Stifling 'D'.

The Pirates (5-1) allowed only 3 points (1 field goal, 1 free throw) in the fourth quarter, or 3 fewer than they had yielded in the second quarter, and sealed the decision with a 7-0 run in the final 1:38.

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"Our defense was huge today," said Palatine senior forward Tyler Swierczek, who netted 18 points -- tying him with junior teammate Connor May for game-high honors -- and swatted a shot at the 1:09 mark of the final frame to preserve a 48-42 advantage.

"We were coming off a pretty good victory (Friday night's 58-43 defeat of Hoffman Estates) in our conference opener. Libertyville was very good a season ago, and that's a team that might be better this year. Look for them to land a high sectional seed."

Saturday's nonconference matinee featured a downpour of 3-pointers in the first half, particularly in the first 8 minutes. Fifteen of Libertyville's 19 points in the first quarter came from 3-point hardwood; Swierczek drained a pair of treys, and May and senior guard Quinn Golletz (5 points) authored one apiece for Palatine.

Libertyville senior guard Jack Huber (10 points, 4 steals) turned into Mr. Electric shortly after freshman teammate Blaise LaVista (6 points) had cut Palatine's lead to 10-6 with his second triple at 2:51 of the first quarter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The 6-3 Huber stole a pass and sprinted for an uncontested layup at the other end. He then stole the ensuing inbound pass before nailing the first of his two '3' balls.

The breakdown, give or take a millisecond: 10 seconds, 2 steals, 5 points.

All Huber.

Libertyville senior forward Aidyn Boone (team-high 17 points, 4 3-pointers) followed that dizzying stretch with, yep, another 3-pointer.

A 10-3 deficit had turned into a 14-10 lead for the hosts, just like that.

"We had talked about that, using our defense to generate our offense, and that's exactly what Jack did for us," Wildcats coach Brian Zyrkowski said after his club -- which led 25-24 at the break and 39-38 after three quarters -- slipped to 3-3. "He does such a nice job of controlling the tempo for us.

"But Palatine," the coach added, "won this game by getting to more 50-50 balls, by playing physical defense, by rebounding and by taking care of the basketball. Palatine had a lot to do with our mistakes. Eric's team played poised basketball and never panicked."

Palatine's May played well in December, again. The 6-7 Pirate poured in a combined 39 points in the two weekend victories and came down with a game-best 12 rebounds Saturday afternoon.

"He's quite a player, isn't he?" Swierczek said. "Connor put in the time to work hard in the offseason to become the player he is now. It's awesome, getting to be on the court with him."

Palatine junior guard Tommy Elter finished with 5 points and 7 boards.

Libertyville reserve senior guard Kaj Sorensen (6 points) hit 2 of the Wildcats' 11 3-pointers. Libertyville tallied 21 of its first 25 points -- and 12 of its 14 points in the third stanza -- from spots beyond the arc.

"Libertyville was shooting lights out for a while," Eric Millstone said. "That was an intense game, from start to finish, the kind you normally see in March."

Both teams were short-handed. Libertyville played without senior guard Will Buchert (ankle injury); Palatine senior post player Grant Dersnah continues to recover from a football injury.

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