Libertyville's balance beats Prospect in sectional final
Libertyville had Friday's date circled for nearly a year.
The Wildcats were looking for some redemption, after losing last year's sectional championship game to Barrington in overtime.
And after Libertyville knocked off Prospect 60-42 in this year's Barrington sectional title game Friday, the Wildcats have their sights set on a new goal.
Libertyville (29-5), which has won eight in a row and 13 of their last 14 games, qualified for the supersectionals for the first time since 1994.
The Wildcats will meet New Trier in Monday's 8 p.m. game at the Now Arena in Hoffman Estates. New Trier, which was top-seeded in the sectional, rallied to beat Glenbrook North 47-46.
"Our guys remember last year and falling short," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "We had the opportunity to come back this year and I think that our senior leadership wasn't going to let that happen this year. They were focused tonight."
Libertyville has balanced scoring to advance. The Wildcats had four players in double figures led by Aidyn Boone, who had 18 points and seven rebounds. Will Buchert had 14 points while Jack Huber and Cole Bonder each had 11 points.
Buchert remembered the disappointing loss with Barrington last year and he said that it fed the team all season.
"We had a chip on our shoulder all season," Buchert said. "This is a big goal to come back here and win this game."
Libertyville's length and size inside bothered Prospect all night.
The Wildcats forced the Knights to shoot 33 percent (14-of-42) from the field. Boone and Bonder, who are both 6-foot-6, were all able to muscle inside on both ends of the court.
"We made an emphasis to do that," Zyrkowski said. "We also wanted to get the ball in the post, because if we got a lead it would change the pace of the game."
Boone said that was a huge part of the plan Friday.
"That was the goal, to get inside," Boone said. "Stevenson did that against them on Wednesday. We wanted to make it an inside presence and then kick outside if needed."
Libertyville beat Prospect 68-57 in the opening game of the season for both teams. And since they were familiar with each other, the game was tight early.
Buchert helped Libertyville build a 12-9 early in the second quarter.
Prospect then came storming back. The Knights grabbed a 17-13 lead on a rare four-point play by Charlie Gilmer.
Libertyville then began to take over.
Boone, whose winning three-pointer on Tuesday enabled the Wildcats to advance, drilled a three from almost the same spot. That ignited a 9-0 run by Libertyville that was capped by Buchert's driving basket to make it 23-17.
After a basket by Prospect's Ben Schneider, Libertyville, playing for the last shot, hit a big one from Huber. His three at the buzzer gave the Wildcats a 26-19 halftime advantage.
Libertyville continued their onslaught to begin the second half. They scored they first six points to begin the second half to make it an 18-3 run and open up a 32-19 lead.
Prospect did cut the margin to 36-28 on a driving basket by Schneider. But Libertyville then scored the next six points on their way to an 11-2 run and 47-30 lead to put the game away.
"I thought we really came out with more intensity tonight," Zyrkowski said. "We lacked that in our last game and I think we held that intensity all game tonight."
Prospect (20-12) was making its first appearance in the sectional finals since 1992. The Knights, who began the season 6-8, had improved substantially since then, going 14-3 until Friday.
Prospect coach Brad Rathe was disappointed in the outcome Friday, but proud of the team's accomplishments this season.
"What a season," Rathe said. "What a fun run. We had such a buzz around school. I never got that many text messages in my life. I am just happy they had the opportunity to experience all this. They deserve that. Everyone doesn't get that opportunity, so I am happy for them."
Alex Georgakas led Prospect with 16 points. Schneider had 10 points while Drew Terpins added six points.