Cerese's 37 lead Lake Park over St. Charles East
A jumper from Lake Park guard Josh Gerber with 3:12 left in the second quarter actually proved to be a bit more significant than one may think on first glance.
That was the first basket a Lake Park player, besides junior Cam Cerese, made in the game. Cerese scored 16 consecutive points.
Cerese, though, has been an offensive juggernaut all season for the Lancers. Their eventual 68-57 victory over St. Charles East on Friday was largely nothing that program hasn't seen before; as Cerese finished with 37 points, just shy of his career-high of 40 he achieved last month.
"I give credit to my teammates. They try to find me open," Cerese said on his stellar offensive output. "People are face-guarding me, so we have a lot of plays to get backdoor layups and stuff like that. I trust my game. I put a lot of work in the offseason and it's paying off."
Cerese started half the season last year before elevating to a full-time role this year. His role a year ago was to play defense and rebound. While those are elements he's still expected to bring, the offense has stolen the show.
Cerese, who was sick all week and missed practice, showcased his offensive skill in a variety of ways Friday, whether it was slashing to the basket, converting turnaround jumpers in the post or launching deep from the 3-point arc. Cerese finished with five assists and was 11 of 19 from the field, while also converting 14 points off free throws.
In whatever way he can find the space and points, the Lancers "ride it."
"We're lucky he's on our team and I can't believe he's only a junior," Lancers coach Billy Pitcher said. "I pinch myself. I get to coach him another 45 games. He just put us on his back tonight. We were struggling to score and I thought he made good decisions.
"[St. Charles East] was doing a really good job. They stayed home on [Dennasio] LaGioia and [Tommy] Rochford and so he drove it. Then, when the help came, he made the pass. He hit Gerber a few times. Josh, I thought, really stepped up and found some of those little openings and finished, so I'm really proud and happy of Josh."
The Lancers (11-7, 6-2) haven't suffered lopsided losses to date. In the seven of them, it's been by a combined 20 points.
"Every game is close, so each possession really matters and we have to get stops," Cerese said. "Rebounding is very important."
Cerese had 23 points at the half Friday and sustained the momentum into the third quarter. The Saints began the second half with four consecutive turnovers and weren't able to find a bucket until Trent Bush's jumper with 2:56 left in the quarter. By that point, the Lancers ran off with a 15-point lead.
The Saints were able to pull within 11 points with 3:50 remaining, but the early mistakes proved to be costly. It spoiled what was a relatively steady first half showing by the Saints, who led for a quarter and a half.
Other standout performances for Lake Park included Gerber's 13 points, a career-high. Rochford had six points and three rebounds.
"We mismanaged a few possessions in that late second quarter. We had the lead for the majority of the first half," Saints coach Pat Woods said. "Credit [Cerese]: I think he had this game circled. We held him to six points last time and he went off on us. He did a great job with the ball and attacking the basket. We really struggled to guard him.
"In the second half, we start with four turnovers in a row and a five-point [Lake Park] lead goes to a 16-point lead in less than two minutes. Then, we're chasing the rest of the game."
The Saints (9-11, 3-4) were paced by Jacob Vrankovich's 13 points, while Drew Clarke had 11 and Steven Call had 10 points.
"I thought Vrankovich did a nice job attacking the basket," Woods said. "We're a hot and cold team and when we get cold, we struggle. ... We're not ever going to step on the court and just dominate anyone. It's going to be a fight from start to finish, but I did like the fight. I liked the way we finished. I like we didn't give up. We just got to be better in spurts."