Vernon Hills holds on at Maine East

By John Bumbales
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 12/16/2022 10:03 PM

Trailing by double digits for most of the game, including by 17 points early in the fourth quarter, it was going to take a huge rally for host Maine East to get back into its Central Suburban League boys basketball game against Vernon Hills Friday night.

And behind the 3-point shooting of senior Neel Patel, the Blue Demons got just that as Patel exploded for four of his five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to cut the Cougars' lead to 53-48 with 3:15 to play.


But that was as close at Maine East (5-3, 1-2) and its fired-up home crowd would get as Vernon Hills (6-4, 2-1) was able to hold off the huge surge down the stretch and pulled away for a 66-54 CSL North Division victory.

A driving basket by Vernon Hills senior Milan Raval gave the visitors a 49-32 lead with 7:28 to play before Patel (team-high 17 points) began his late-game magic, including his final 3-pointer from the right corner.

But the Cougars got a big 3-pointer from Dylan Chung (10 points) on their next trip downcourt to go ahead 56-48 before a fast-break basket by teammate Deen Hatibovic boosted the lead to 60-50 with 1:27 to play.

"Neel Patel is like the heart and soul of our team right here. His energy, his enthusiasm, his willingness to compete, he's got such a motor to do whatever it takes to win," said Maine East coach Sergio Muro, whose team trailed 14-4 after one quarter, 30-20 at halftime, and 47-32 after three quarters. "I am not surprised at his performance today, he's capable of having big nights like the night he had today. Credit to Vernon Hills. They came ready to play, and we came out flat in the first and second quarters."

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Raval had a team-high 17 points for the Cougars along with 9 rebounds and 9 assists. Hatibovic also had a big game with 16 points and 6 rebounds while 6-foot-5 teammate Nolan Lazor had 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

Besides Patel, the Blue Demons' Derryl Gaddi hit double figures in scoring with 10 points while teammates Samy Salem and Jalan Alphonse scored 8 and 7 points, respectively.

"I feel like we brought more energy especially in the second half that we didn't bring in the first half," said Patel. "I feel like I had the hot hand so shout out my teammates for getting the ball to me when I was hot. Every game someone else is going to get hot, but it wasn't enough. We have to bring more defensive energy and we're going to bounce back."

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