Last Thursday, the boys basketball team defeated visiting Zion-Benton 54-47 in their final contest before heading into the annual tournament at Jacobs High School in Algonquin.
Mirko Grcic led the Bears with a solid 24 points and 11 rebounds. Doug Murphy scored 10 points and demonstrated his offensive aggressiveness with back-to-back charges in the fourth quarter. Ryan Roach contributed eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists in the winning effort.
It took the Bears a while to get it going. They were down 15-6 after the first quarter before outscoring the Zee-Bees 11-7 to narrow their lead to 22-17 at halftime. Lake Zurich came out strong in the third quarter, putting up 16 points against Zion-Benton’s 9 to take a 33-31 lead.
Jeff O’Brien made things difficult for the Zee-Bees' star player Milik Yarbrough throughout the contest, getting a pair of steals and blocked shots. O’Brien finished the night with 9 points and nine rebounds.
"Ryan Roach was really key getting into the lane, attacking and knocking down open shots,” said Bears coach Billy Pitcher. “His 3-point play on a fast break gave us our first lead of the game at 28-27, and we never gave the lead back up after that.”
The Bears were stingy on turnovers, committing just eight all game, a sign of the team’s maturation. “Our goal is under 10, so we’ve met that,” said Pitcher. The Bears also had just eight turnovers in their win against Highland Park last week. The Bears’ win over Zion-Benton improved their record to 4-5, 1-3.
In their first game in the Jacobs tourney on Sunday, Lake Zurich won 36-24 over Prairie Ridge. The Bears got off to an 8-5 start after the first quarter before kicking their offense into overdrive in the second quarter, when they outscored the Wolves 13-2 to take a commanding 21-7 lead at halftime.
Lake Zurich led 31-19 after three quarters before both teams coasted with just five points apiece in the final quarter.
Grcic led the Bears with 16 points and O’Brien had five. O’Brien played solid defense against Sean Valentine, the Wolves’ top player. The win evened Lake Zurich’s season record at 5-5.
By the end of the third quarter, when Lake Zurich led 31-19, Grcic led all scorers with 16 points.
On Monday night, the Bears ran their winning streak to four games by defeating Woodstock Marian 65-52 in a high-scoring contest.
Lake Zurich led 18-15 after the first quarter and 32-22 at the half. Grcic finished with 20 points, all of them coming in the first three quarters. Murphy added 14 points, along with nine rebounds.
“They played really hard and are a really physical team that crashes the boards hard,” said Pitcher. “We struggled on the boards in the first half but really responded and boxed out better in the second half. I was really proud of how unselfish we played. Mirko especially passed up several open looks for better looks for his teammates.”
Ross Langois led Marian with 10 points.
The Bears winning streak ended at four on Tuesday night when they lost to Huntley, 38-26. The Bears jumped out to a 3-0 lead courtesy of Grcic’s 3-pointer from the right side. It seemed as if no one wanted to score in the opening minutes; Grcic’s basket occurred almost 2½ minutes into the quarter.
With Lake Zurich ahead 7-6 late in the quarter, Troy Miller’s tres from behind the free-throw line gave the Red Raiders a 9-7 advantage, after which they never relinquished the lead.
Huntley built their lead to 17-13 in the second quarter, a low-scoring period of play in which both teams scored just 6 points.
In the third quarter, the Red Raiders pulled away, outscoring Lake Zurich 12-4. Miller scored a pair of field goals for Huntley, as did Bryce Only.
“We had a tough time protecting the lanes,” said Pitcher. “If you don’t stop them early it snowballs on you. They’re a good team and took some good shots. We fell in love with the outside shot tonight and got into trouble doing that.”
The Bears went even with Huntley in the last quarter, as each team scored nine points, but they weren’t able to make any inroads on the Red Raiders' lead. Huntley consistently demonstrated solid ball control and aggressive defense. On a number of occasions, their players aggressively pursued turnovers when the Bears had the ball, and several times they were successful.
Bears Pause: Lake Zurich went 2-1 in the tournament, and are now 6-6 on the season. That’s a huge improvement over last year, as Pitcher now has a team that is demonstrating a solid grasp of fundamentals, including ball control, shot selection, time management and adapting to either man or zone defense. Murphy led the Bears with 14 points, including a nifty steal in the third quarter, when he went three-fourths of the court for the basket. Ryan Roach added 7 points. One of the reasons that Huntley was victorious was their containment of Grcic, who finished the night with 5 points. After his opening 3-pointer, a layup in the fourth quarter was his only other score.
Next Up: Lake Zurich next travels downstate to Pekin for the annual yuletide tournament, which starts on Dec. 27 and runs through Dec. 29.
Girls fall to Sgevenson
Last Saturday, the girls basketball team lost to visiting Stevenson, 44-32. The Patriots jumped out to a 10-4 lead and the Bears were never able to get any closer throughout the balance of the contest.
“We could never get any momentum going and never had any real flow on the offensive end,” said Lake Zurich coach Chris Bennett. “I was happy with our defense and rebounding for the most part, but we struggled to find holes in their zone.”
Stevenson put up 10 points in the second half to the Bears’ 6, for a 20-10 halftime lead. Lake Zurich played their best offense in the third quarter, when they scored 10 points. But the Patriots scored 8, and went into the fourth leading 28-20. Stevenson then outscored the Bears 16-12 in the final period.
Dori Darras led Lake Zurich with 17 points, accounting for more than half of her team’s point total.
“Dori played her best game of the year with 17 points,” said Bennett. “She scored inside and outside, and rebounded well with six offensive rebounds.”
Cathryne Spear chipped in with 7 points; Stephanie Schmid had 6.
Twice in the third and fourth quarters, Lake Zurich was able to cut the Patriots' lead to 6 points. But each time, the Bears turned the ball over on subsequent possessions that led to Stevenson scores.
“Katherine Anderson and Renee Wojcik combined to do a really nice job stopping Kate Batman,” said Bennett, “and Maisie Cox did a great job keeping Kari Moffatt, their point guard, under control. But their other players hit open shots.”
Bears Pause: Darras had a total of seven rebounds in the game, six on offense. Spear and Maisie Cox each had six. Cox was also the only other player to score. She had 2 points, going 1-for-7 in field goal attempts.
Next Up: Lake Zurich hosts Trinity at 7 tonight. They travel to Trinity on Friday to play Saint Francis for a game that starts at 3 p.m., their first holiday break game. They’ll play at Stevenson on Dec. 27 and Loyola on Dec. 28. The starting times for both games has yet to be announced.