Lake Forest ends Carmel's Cinderella run
After defeating No. 5-seeded Fenton and No. 4-seeded St. Patrick to win the regional last week in Chicago, No. 12-seeded Carmel Catholic was going to be stepping up in class when the Corsairs faced top-seeded Lake Forest Tuesday night in the Class 3A Grayslake Central sectional semifinals.
And while heavy underdog Carmel (13-21) did give the Scouts all they could handle for the majority of the game, Lake Forest (23-10) ultimately showed that it had just too much firepower for the Corsairs on the way to a 40-28 victory in this defensive struggle of a contest.
With the win, the Scouts will face the winner of Wednesday night's semifinal contest between the No. 2-seeded host Rams (27-5) and No. 7 St. Viator (15-18) Friday at 7 p.m. for the sectional championship. Lake Forest defeated Grayslake Central 55-34 on Jan. 14, but they have not played the Lions this season.
The first half Tuesday was a complete and total defensive struggle as cold shooting and a great zone defense by Lake Forest led to a 6-6 tie after one quarter and a 15-13 Scouts' lead at halftime.
But the third quarter was when Lake Forest finally started turning the tide against the pesky Corsairs. An outside basket by Clemson-bound senior Asa Thomas (11 points, 6 rebounds) capped a 10-1 run to give the Scouts their biggest lead at 29-17 with 1:03 left in the third quarter.
"We just missed some layups, we missed some open shots, and we just didn't score enough points," said Carmel coach Dmitry Pirshin, whose team was held to single-digit scoring in all four quarters. "I think we started playing our best basketball late in the season. People stepped up, and the practices were good so the games came naturally."
Carmel senior James Dwyer scored 6 of his team-high 10 points to help keep the Corsairs within striking distance. Like Dwyer, junior teammate Kaleb Jackson (9 points) also hit three 3-pointers for Carmel. But it was not enough to offset the Scouts' more consistent offensive attack overall.
Junior Bolurin Taiwo came off the bench to spark Lake Forest with a game-high 12 points while junior teammate Efe Yardimci scored all 9 of his points from 3-point range. Junior Noah LaMora scored 6 points for the Corsairs before fouling out late in the game.
"He (Taiwo) has great energy, he has great confidence now, and he does a lot of good things for us," said Lake Forest coach Phil LaScala, whose team held its biggest lead at 34-21 with 2:54 to play. "I thought defensively we did a great job. I thought offensively we were running our offense much more in the third quarter. We got him (Thomas) more involved, and he did a great job."