Lake Zurich's comeback falls short at Lake Forest

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/6/2023 10:49 PM

Despite trailing almost the entire game Friday at Lake Forest, Lake Zurich kept fighting back.

The Bears were able to keep the game close, but they couldn't quite get over the hump.


Before a packed house, the Scouts came up with some clutch free throws down the stretch to score a 58-49 North Suburban Conference boys basketball win.

The game was won and lost on the boards, as Lake Forest out-rebounded the Bears by a wide margin, especially on the offensive glass.

"Coach has been talking to us about how we've got to crash the glass a little bit harder," said Lake Forest junior Thomas Aberle. "I think we took that personal and did a good job of it tonight."

Lake Zurich coach Terry Coughlin agreed, saying that it was "pretty obvious" that rebounding was the difference in the contest.

"We didn't secure the basketball," said Couglin. "I told the guys that it's pretty simple -- they're big, they're strong, and they've got to secure the ball.

"We didn't do that tonight, and that's been an Achilles' heel for us most of the year."

Six-foot-3 junior Nick Popovic scored 22 points for Lake Zurich and although the Bears had some chances late, they couldn't quite close the gap.

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"It's a pretty simple game," said Coughlin. "The team that possesses the ball more gives themselves a great chance to win."

All things considered, the Bears must have felt lucky to be trailing by just 4 points at halftime.

Lake Forest owned the boards, seemed to get to every loose ball, and were shooting the lights out from 3-point range.

Lake Zurich, meanwhile, couldn't buy a rebound, and they were just 2-of-8 from behind the arc in the first two quarters.

Lake Forest extended the lead in the third quarter, but the Bears battled back.

And when Lake Zurich junior Keyon Haynes nailed a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the third stanza, the deficit was just 45-41.

It gave them momentum and a great chance heading into the final 8 minutes.


"We fight to the end, which is a common thread for us," said Coughlin. "That's something I'm really proud of."

Lake Forest opened the final period with 5 straight points, but Lake Zurich (7-7, 1-3) rallied.

A driving layup from Popovic then 2 foul shots by Brendan Powers brought the visitors to within 5 again with 2:43 left. But the Bears couldn't get any closer, and 9 free three throws in the final two and a half minutes by the Scouts sealed the win.

Lake Zurich sophomore Anton Strelnikov played a strong game, scoring 18 points.

"We're young, and we've just got to understand what it takes to win at a high level," said Coughlin. "We have the capability, and it's my job to try to figure out what buttons to push. We'll continue to get better -- we have throughout the entire year. We'll just get back to work and try to figure it out together."

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