Lake County boys basketball notes: Stevenson's depth making a difference
A common theme with the North Suburban Conference co-leading Stevenson boys basketball team?
"Our biggest strength is our balance in all phases of the game," Patriots assistant coach Paul Swan said. "We are playing well as a team. It is a total team effort. It is a different player every night that steps up for us."
Stevenson was 17-4 overall and tied with Libertyville atop the North Suburban at 8-1 to start the week. The Patriots recently defeated Warren 50-40 in overtime and Mundelein 47-38 in another conference game.
Jack Dabbs combined for 27 points, 22 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in the Warren and Mundelein games.
Swan pointed out Stevenson has six players with more than 100 points this season. Aidan Bardic, Christian Uremovich and Dabbs lead the Patriots in scoring, while Uremovich and Dabbs are the team's leading rebounders. Bardic, David Sulnius and Michael Maloney are tops in assists.
Maloney and Raj Mohapatra are squarely in the unsung category for the Patriots.
"Michael doesn't often stuff the stat sheet, but his effort and hustle plays are crucial for us," Swan noted. "He often has the task of defending the best opposing player regardless of position. Raj doesn't receive much court time, but his leadership is vital. He is the leader of our scout team and does a great job with that. His effort in practice against our guards just makes everyone better."
Stevenson had five conference games remaining to start the week. After playing Lake Forest earlier this week, Stevenson hosts Zion Friday and then finishes on the road with Libertyville, Waukegan and Mundelein. "I would say they are all big games," Swan said.
In the face of adversity, the Libertyville boys basketball team continues to excel.
The Wildcats, who have been hit by the injury bug, were 19-4 overall and 8-1 in North Suburban Conference action at week's start (tied with Stevenson atop the conference). A 55-45 win over Hersey over the weekend put the Wildcats within striking distance of 20 wins.
"The team has played well considering they have multiple guys out with injuries," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said.
Cole Bonder averaged 19 points per game in a recent two-game stretch against Waukegan and Hersey.
"Cole has been leading us in scoring as of late," Zyrkowski said. "He gives everything he has every single night. He leads the team in charges, gets on the floor for loose balls and dominates the glass."
Jack Huber also has been a key driver, particularly on defense. "Jack has picked it up for us defensively, leading in assists and steals, and has been second in scoring over the last week," Zyrkowski said.
Grayslake Central update:
The Rams were a cool 21-3 and sitting strong in the Northern Lake County Conference at 8-1.
Central beat town foe Grayslake North 71-53 and Grant 56-33 last week. "We are coming off a very positive week," Rams coach Brian Centella said.
In the North game, Central had four players in double figures, including Jake Gibson with 22 points and 5 blocks and Dennis Estepp with 17 points and 7 assists. Sam Cooper had 22 points in the Grant win.
"We have been playing consistent defense all season," Centella said. "Balanced scoring has been the key offensively."
Estepp leads the team in points (14 per game), steals (2 per game) and assists (3 per game). Gibson is tops in rebounding at 8 per game and blocks at 3 per game.
"Dennis and Jake have been great all year," Centella said. "Michael Monahan has really been playing well of late. He is not only a great defender, but impacts the game with his scoring and passing."
Centella feels Cooper has turned into one of the best players in the NLCC. "Sam is an incredibly efficient scorer and a fierce competitor," he said.
Centella added Kai Taylor has helped the Rams with his strong ball-handling skills and decision-making on the floor.
Another key contributor in the Rams' success has been Jayden Hall. "Jayden has really been an unsung hero for us," Centella said. "I believe he is one of the most talented juniors in the NLCC, but doesn't start because he is playing behind a very talented senior group. However, he has played great minutes all season, especially of late. He is a great defender and a very talented scorer."
Central squares off with Antioch and Round Lake this week.
The Eagles remain in the thick of the Northern Lake County race at 7-2 (15-7 overall) to start the week.
Brock Marino leads the team in both scoring (14.4 points) and rebounding (8.1), while Tyson Dewey is tops in assists (3.5 per game).
"Our guys have been stepping up," Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. "Brock continues to play at a high level and teams have been really focusing on him lately. Tyson Dewey continues to provide a huge defensive lift for us and Tyler Anderson has heated up from the floor."
Snyder labels recent overall efforts as consistent. "They continue to defend at a high level and are starting to knock down shots," he said. "The group has been great in practice and has really handled the January grind well. They bring great energy to practice and are always looking to improve and take another step forward as a team."
Snyder said credit also must be given to the Lakes scout team. "Our scout team has been great," he said. "They do an outstanding job prepping our team. JJ Jackson, Derek Lucier, Drew Bowen, Prodive Montumona, Jake Wisniewski, Jacques Montes and Thomas Mercure deserve a ton of credit for getting our guys ready to play."
Synder added his team is ready for the home stretch of the season.
"We have some big conference games coming up," he said. "We need to focus on each one at a time. We're all trying to catch Grayslake Central, which is having a great season."
Add the Sequoits to the list of county teams tearing it up of late. Antioch has won eight of its last 10, including a NLCC win over Lakes (45-37). Antioch was 12-11 overall and 6-3 in conference play to start the week. Antioch was also 7-1 on the road after the Lakes win.
Junior Carter Webb has made 53 threes and is on pace to pass 2019 Antioch graduate Dan Filippone's record of 60. Filippone is also Antioch's all-time leading scorer with 2,078 points.
Webb is averaging 11.5 points per game, while Nate Young is at 4.5 rebounds. Emmy Zamudio averages 2.5 assists, while Webb is tops on the team in steals (1.6 per game) and also leads in free-throw percentage. Webb has averaged 15 points, 3 rebounds and 1.5 steals during Antioch's recent 8-2 run. Sophomore Teddi Wetu has been the second-leading scorer during the stretch at 7.5 points per game. Wetu was called up to the varsity during the Wheeling tournament after Marshall Gehrke went down with a season-ending injury.
Senior Kyle Glassman again leads Antioch in charges taken. "Kyle provides great energy off the bench and is our team captain," said coach Sean Connor, who noted Glassman led the team in scoring against Lakes.
Coach Sean Connor noted January saw many positives, including Antioch holding teams to 43 points per game, which is 4 points below its season average. Antioch also outrebounded teams 31-26 during the month, averaged 1 less turnover than their January opponents (14 to 15), while averaging 2 more assists per game than the season average. "We're sharing the ball better," Connor said.
Lake Zurich update:
Coach Terry Coughlin's squad was 13-9 overall and 4-5 in NSC play to start the week. Lake Zurich recently defeated Wheeling 59-52 in nonconference action and dropped a close 1-pointer to Warren in conference play (55-54).
Anton Strelnikov leads Lake Zurich in scoring at 15.5 points per game and is averaging 5 rebounds.
"We have been rebounding the ball much better recently, which has allowed us to score the ball a little more due to more possessions," Coughlin.
Keeping with the rebounding theme, Brendan Powers is another player excelling for the Bears in that department. "Brendan is a well-known player and is averaging about 13 points a game, but recently he has stepped up his efforts on the glass considerably," Coughlin said. "His aggressiveness on the glass has filtered down through our team, and it's apparent we have seen other players step up their efforts in this area as well."
Lake Zurich plays Lake Forest at home Friday. The two teams had a close battle in early January at Lake Forest, Coughlin noted.
Vernon Hills update:
The Cougars are heating up, winners of four in a row to start the week. Vernon Hills recently defeated Woodstock at home, won in overtime at Highland Park (58-51) and downed Grant 73-53 at home.
Milan Rival had 15 points, 5 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 assists and no turnovers against Woodstock. Coach Matt McCarty noted the Cougars trailed by 11 points with 4:35 left in regulation against Highland Park only to have Rival end up with 17 points in the fourth quarter alone (4 three-pointers). He finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 8 steals.
"Milan led us back with determination," McCarty said. "In my 24 years of coaching at Vernon Hills, it was the single-best late-game performance I can remember."
Rival had 18 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals against Grant to help the Cougars move to 13-12 overall. Vernon Hills was 4-3 in Central Suburban North play to start the week.
"Our senior leaders, Milan and Nolan Lazor, have been playing very well and leading the team on and off the court," McCarty said.
Another bright spot for Vernon Hills has been sophomore AJ Morgan. "AJ continues to do a lot of good things for us," McCarty said.
In a recent game against Maine West, Morgan was 3-for-3 from the field and 4-for-4 from the free-throw line to finish with 10 points. He had 17 points and 5 rebounds against Woodstock on the strength of a 6-for-10 effort from 2, a 3-pointer and a slam dunk.
In the Grant game, Morgan had 18 points in the first half thanks to 8-for-9 shooting from the floor.
"AJ only played 10 games as a freshman due to injury and really only started getting serious about basketball in the eighth grade," McCarty noted. "He has shown tremendous growth and is a very coachable young man."
Vernon Hills is busy this week with games against Niles North, Maine East and Lake Zurich. "Should be a week filled with matchups in which we will have to be focused and ready to compete at a high level against three very good teams," McCarty said.
Grant was 6-15 overall and 3-5 in NLCC action to start the week.
Coach Wayne Bosworth likes the way Bernard Morris continues to play. "Bernard continues to be our spark plug and plays harder than anyone I have seen all season," he said. "I'm not sure where we'd be without him. He's instrumental to this team. Bernard will be a huge loss for us next season when he graduates. Bernard is beyond valuable to us with his defense, energy and 3-point shooting ability."
Bosworth said with Morris, sometimes the stats aren't always reflective in the box score, "but he's our one player right now who will do everything he can to execute on defense," he said. "There's nothing he won't do to try to help this team win games. He's our hardest worker on defense, tries to take more charges than anyone and has a motor that doesn't stop. He's our leader."
Grant recently brought up sophomore Landon Enters and freshman Max Hembry. In recent games against Grayslake Central and Vernon Hills, two teams Bosworth termed very good, Enters was the only Grant player to shoot 50 percent or higher from the floor (6-for-12). Since coming up to the varsity four games ago, Enters is tied for second on the team in scoring. Hembry, in only his second and third varsity games, was fourth on the team in field goal percentage.
"Landon has been instant offense for us since coming up to the varsity," Bosworth said. "He runs the point well and has helped us push our transition game."
Jake Swanson also came off the bench to finish second in field goal percentage last week (45 percent), "and continues to give us much-needed energy off the bench," Bosworth said. "We are getting some very nice contributions off our bench with multiple guys coming in and contributing right away."
Grant plays Grayslake North and Wauconda this week. "A couple of big middle-of-the-pack NLCC games this week where we are all separated by one game," Bosworth noted.
A 55-54 win over Lake Zurich put the Blue Devils at 14-12 overall and 5-4 in NSC action.
Alex Daniels leads Warren in scoring at 13.1 points and also averaged 5.5 rebounds. Adam Panek averages 10.5 points and 5 rebounds.
Warren also holds a win over conference co-leader Libertyville (Jan. 13).
"We have been able to beat some good teams," Warren coach Zack Ryan said.
Ryan has also been pleased with the play of Patrick Sengco and Josh Stewart, who recently surpassed 200 career assists.
"Patrick has hit several big shots for us over the past few weeks," Ryan said.
The Mustangs were 10-13 overall and 3-5 in North Suburban play to start the week after a recent 2-1 run that saw them beat Waukegan (74-71) and St. Viator (48-46) and drop a 47-39 game to Stevenson.
"As a team, we are competing really hard right now," Mundelein coach Matt Badgley said. "That has become our identity."
Sophomore Derek Bishop averaged 22 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in those three games. Badgley also likes how sophomore Evan Salvador has played off the bench and has also been pleased with Kevin Moyer's efforts.
Badgley also lauded the play of Michael Farina.
"Michael is tasked with defending the opposing teams' top guard," he said. "He brings an incredible amount of energy through his love of competition. A tough kid with a will to compete. If you play him in checkers, he will try to bury you."
Grayslake North update:
The Knights scored a big recent road victory over NLCC foe Wauconda in a game where they trailed by 12 at halftime. North started the week 10-13 overall and 4-3 in conference play.
"We came all the way back in the second half with some great team defense and clutch shooting," coach Josh Feinzimer said.
Dom Jankowski led North with 23 points, while freshman Uros Mitrovic added 14 points, including a big corner 3 in the waning seconds. Jayden Hunt added 12 points. Jankowski also had 11 rebounds to give him his first double-double of the season. Jacob Donohue had 6 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Donohue had a driving layup with seconds remaining that helped seal the win.
Additionally, Jankowski became Grayslake North's all-time leading scorer in the game.
"We have been talking about showing toughness in the face of adversity all season, and battling back the way we did in the Wauconda game proves we are maturing as a group," Feinzimer said. "The emergence of some of our younger guys has made a difference, including sophomore Cam Bats on the defensive end and Uros, who is shooting 49 percent from 3. Jayden Hunt has been a stabilizing force at the point guard position with his scoring and steadiness initiating our offense."
Feinzimer also lauded the efforts of seniors Casey Staver, Gabe Sanborn, Dylan Peterson, Eli Wetter and Charlie Pritchard.
"It's never easy to play a reserve role on a team, especially as a senior, but these guys lead with positivity and enthusiasm, keeping everyone engaged and energized during games and practices," he said. "They are incredible models of what it means to put the team's success over any personal accolades or wants. Each of them is a galvanizing force for us in his own way. We're extremely lucky to have them, even if their contributions don't show up on the stats sheet."
North plays Grant and Antioch this week in a pair of NLCC contests.
The Corsairs downed Nazareth Academy in overtime (Nazareth had just beaten St. Ignatius) and scored a 23-19 win over Notre Dame in Niles in a game where coach Dmitry Pirshin noted both teams did not hold the ball.
"Both are solid wins," he said.
Carmel started the week 10-17 overall and 2-10 in East Suburban Catholic action.
During a recent three-game stretch, Jacob Chajet was the team's leading scorer coming off the bench. Peter Stavros and James Dwyer also have played well of late, Pirshin noted.
"Peter is helping out with playmaking ability and making shots and James started hitting shots again after a little slump," he said. "Peter is starting to lead much better."
Pirshin threw Noah LaMora's name into the mix as well. "Noah, Peter and Jacob are helping out with scoring and playmaking and helping with the load Kaleb Jackson and James Dwyer used to carry heavily," he said.
Pirshin noted during the last month a shortened rotation, and an increase in practice detail and rotation have proven beneficial, as has bringing some sophomores and freshmen to varsity practices to help with competition.
"We know exactly the things we need to do better," he said.
Carmel plays Marist and St. Viator this week with St. Viator being senior night Friday.
"Players get emotional and that is a big rivalry for them," Pirshin said. "Hopefully, we are cool-headed that game and execute."