Libertyville knocks off unbeaten Glenbrook North to win Wheeling Classic
A year ago, Libertyville coach Bryan Zyrkowski was home with COVID watching his team play on TV at the Hardwood Classic tournament in Wheeling as they finished third.
Friday in the finals if the 2022 edition of the tournament, Zyrkowski was on the bench as his Wildcats came home with the top hardware, knocking off previously unbeaten Glenbrook North 64-59 to win the title. It was the first Hardwood tournament title for Libertyville since 2002.
"It is a lot better than watching on TV," Zyrkowski said. "I got a courtside view how our kids came out tonight. We set goals this year and obviously this is always one of them. Midseason and to be playing this way and compete and finishing games is big coming down the stretch."
Libertyville (13-3) used their size and strength on the glass, outrebounding Glenbrook North 36-17.
"That has been our bread and butter lately," Zyrkowski said. "We are focusing a lot on offensive rebounding and giving teams just one opportunity. And when it didn't happen, they capitalized on that."
Libertyville used its strong presence inside on both ends of the court to bolt to a 14-2 lead. After surrendering an early basket, the Wildcats ran off 14 unanswered points with Will Buchert leading the charge with eight of those points.
Meanwhile, Glenbrook North (14-1) was struggling to find its offense. The Spartans were 1-of-9 from the field and had four turnovers as they found themselves far behind.
"We got in a hole early which was tough," Glenbrook North coach Quin Hayes said. "I think nerves got to us."
But that changed when Glenbrook North went to a smaller lineup. The Spartans began to patiently move the ball around the perimeter. Trailing 21-9, Glenbrook North ran off ten unanswered points to make it 21-19.
Libertyville stayed on top with Aidyn Boone, Cole Bonder and Jack Huber using their size against the smaller lineup. Libertyville led 34-30 at the half.
Glenbrook North pulled even at 39-39 on three free throws by Owen Giannoulias and took their first lead on basket by Giannoulias just seconds later.
From there, the teams combined for five lead changes and three ties with Glenbrook North leading 50-49 with 6:41 to play.
Libertyville took the lead for good on a pair of free throws from Huber. The Wildcats extended their lead to 54-50 on a three-pointer by Kay Sorensen with 5:18 left.
Glenbrook North would cut the lead to two points on two occasions. The final time came with 47.9 seconds to play on a 3-pointer by Sam Lippin that cut the Wildcats' lead to 61-59.
But Buchert would add two free throws and Sorensen another to put the game away.
"Our goal coming in was that we wanted to win this tournament," said Buchert, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds and was named the tournament MVP.
"To beat a team like Glenbrook North, this is huge momentum for our season. We just have to keep it going."
Boone had 21 points and 12 rebounds for the Wildcats while Bonder had 13 points and Huber 11 points.
"Our goal was to use our size down low," said Boone, who was named to the all-tournament team.
"They were a real good team and could shoot the lights out, but we got it done."
Lapping and Julian Marta each had 16 to lead Glenbrook North, while Giannoulias added 10 points.
"We were cold to start," Hayes said. "The character of our kids, I couldn't be prouder. Obviously, we would have like to come out with the win. But it was a fantastic game. We left it all out there and there are no regrets."
Neuqua Valley 67, Fremd 64:
In the third-place game, there were 25 lead changes until Luke Kinkade put Neuqua Valley (12-3) up for good with 18 seconds to play. Kinkade, who finished with 24 free throws, then iced the game with a pair of free throws with 1.3 seconds left. Chris Srbinov had 14 points for the Wildcats.
Fremd (8-6) was led by Cameron Kuhl's 21 points. Mark Braun had 12 points and Ryan Sammons had 11 points for the Vikings.