After defeating Libertyville 47-39 last Wednesday on the road, the Lake Zurich girls basketball team lost a 43-40 nail biter in a home game Friday.
“The Libertyville game was a big road win for us,” said Bears coach Chris Bennett. “They are coming off of an undefeated regular season, returning three of their main players, so for us to go over there and get a win was big. I think we did an excellent job in the second half defending what they wanted to do. We basically held them to 10 points until they had three jump shots after the game had been decided. We closed them out hitting 10-11 free throws down the stretch.”
The Bears had three double-digit scorers: Dori Darras paced the team with 12 points and seven rebounds, going 5-for-5 from the free throw line. Stephanie Schmid scored 11 points, while Katherine Anderson was good for 10. Maisie Cox chipped in with eight points.
The team was uniformly excellent from the free throw line; Schmid was 2-for-2, Anderson was 5-for-6 — the only player who wasn’t perfect — and Cox was 4-for-4. With Renee Wojcik going 2-for-2, the team was a solid 18-for-19 from the line.
The Wildcats edged Lake Zurich in the first quarter, 12-11, but the Bears led at halftime 21-20. After outscoring Libertyville 8-4 in the third quarter, Lake Zurich upped its lead to 29-24. The highest-scoring quarter was by far the fourth; the Bears put up 18 points and the Wildcats 15.
The consistency that served the Bears well in their victory over Libertyville largely was absent in their loss to Zion-Benton.
“The Zion game was a frustrating loss,” said Bennett. “They do a nice job taking you away from what you want to do offensively, and our adjustments didn’t get the job done. We had too many unforced turnovers and they scored 17 points off of offensive rebounds. We have to do a better job in both areas the rest of the season.”
Schmid did much of the heavy lifting throughout the first half. She scored six of Lake Zurich’s 10 points in the first quarter, including an under-in layup at the buzzer, narrowing the Zee-Bees' lead to 14-10.
With Zion-Benton leading 16-11 early in the second quarter, Schmid sank a three-point baseline jumper from the far right side, pulling the Bears within two. Cox then stole the ball from Octavia Crump and went coast-to-coast for a layup that knotted the score at 16. Lake Zurich kept pace with Zion-Benton throughout the quarter, and went into halftime down 23-22.
Darras took over from Schmid as the team’s top scorer in the third quarter, scoring nine of her team’s 14 points. Lake Zurich seemed to find their rhythm during that quarter, outscoring the Zee-Bees 14-9 to take a 36-32 advantage.
But that rhythm proved elusive in the final quarter of the contest; Zion-Benton outscored the Bears 11-4 and surged ahead to a 43-40 final. Lake Zurich had several critical turnovers in the last quarter and were unable to disrupt several offensive rebounds that led to baskets by the Zee-Bees.
“In the end, we beat Libertyville, who beat Stevenson, who beat Zion, who beat us — so this is going to be a crazy NSC season, and that doesn’t even include Warren, who hasn’t played anyone yet except us,” said Bennett.
Bears Pause: Stephanie Schmid was the Bears’ leading scorer in the loss to Zion-Benton with 14 points. Dori Darras scored 12 points and Katherine Anderson had eight. Darras and Maisie Cox each had four rebounds. The Zee-Bees' Octavia Crump and Samantha Rodriguez led all scorers with 15 points apiece.
Next Up: The Bears host Stevenson on Saturday. The game starts at 6:30 p.m.
Last Saturday, the Lake Zurich boys basketball team lost to Libertyville 53-39. Down 30-16, the Bears were never really in the game. Jeff O’Brien led Lake Zurich with nine points. Mirko Grcic had eight points and Doug Murphy had six in a game where no one hit the double-digit mark.
“We didn’t play aggressive enough in the first half and give them credit, they shot lights out,” said Bears coach Billy Pitcher. “We played with more energy and intensity in the second half to get it down to 11, but it was too little too late. We just need to be more consistent and put four quarters together.”
That’s exactly what Lake Zurich did in their next contest against visiting Highland Park on Tuesday. With two of their first three field goals good from three-point range — baseline jumpers by Ryan Roach and Grcic — the Bears took an 8-2 lead over the Giants.
Jake Norcia narrowed the gap with a three-pointer of his own, but Lake Zurich answered back when Grcic completed a three-point play by sinking a free throw after being fouled while scoring an under-the-net layup. Danny Dlugie’s three-pointer from the far right baseline made it 11-8 Lake Zurich at the end of the first quarter.
Bears forward O’Brien took over in the second quarter, scoring seven of Lake Zurich’s 11 points, including 2-for-3 from the free throw line. His big play was midway through the quarter when he stole the ball from Ross Chukerman at midcourt and drove it in for a basket.
“Jeff played great tonight,” said Pitcher. “He’s someone we look to who can score points for us."
Lake Zurich led 22-21 at halftime, but it was nip-and-tuck in the second half when the Giants found their rhythm. Fortunately, for the Bears, they were able to control the tempo throughout most of the game, something they were unable to do when the teams met in Highland Park last season.
Down 26-24, Brenden Seeger nailed a three-pointer from the right baseline to give his team the lead. Unfortunately, Josh Sterns answered right back with a tres of his own. After Norcia went 1-for-2 from the line after a hard foul by Seeger, the score was knotted at 32 closing out the third quarter.
The two teams battled throughout the final quarter. With 13.6 seconds remaining, the Giants' Justin Deutsch missed a pair of free throws after a heads-up intentional foul by Seeger. The Bears moved the ball down court and right as the buzzer sounded, O’Brien just barely got off a game-tying basket from the right side of the court.
Heading into a four-minute overtime tied at 39-39, Lake Zurich got a big three-pointer from the far left baseline by Justin Peterson, giving his team a 42-40 advantage. After Murphy missed a one-for-one free throw, Grcic got the rebound and scored the layup to cement the victory.
Norcia kept it close in the waning seconds of the overtime period when he scored a layup to make it 44-42 and then went to the line after being fouled by J.D. Parcheta. But he missed the free throw, and Josh Sterns’ desperation heave was wide of the mark.
“We never gave up,” said Pitcher. “We kept battling and played through the whistle. That’s something we’ve really worked on as a team — keep battling and play smart. Seeger’s foul (against Deutsch) late in the game was a huge play. And Jeff (O’Brien) had a big put-back. Controlling the tempo is really important, and we were able to do that for most of the game tonight.”
Bears Pause: Grcic paced the Bears with 20 points, and O’Brien had nine. O’Brien got off his game-tying shot at the end of regulation time. The buzzer sounded as he released the ball, and the referees conferred for close to a minute before agreeing that the shot counted, forcing the overtime period.
Next Up: Lake Zurich hosts Zion-Benton tonight at 7 p.m.