Vernon Hills’ boys basketball team had its shot at a trip to the “Battle of the Ridge” tournament championship game.
But the Cougars’ final 3-point shot attempt was off the mark on Friday night, which left Vernon Hills with a 35-34 loss to host Northridge Prep in Niles.
“Northridge Prep is extremely well coached, very disciplined and not an easy team to play,” Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty said. “We still have a couple of things to work on here and there. But playing Northridge Prep is a good rivalry for both teams over the last number of years.”
Vernon Hills (2-1) next plays in the tournament’s third-place game against Ridgewood (2-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday. Northridge Prep meets Leyden at 5:30 p.m. in the championship game at Northridge Prep.
The Cougars started their season with a couple of victories in which the defense led the way. On Friday, though, Vernon Hills played without Trenton Fulton (injured ankle) and had several others get into foul trouble.
“Over the first couple of days, we’ve won more with our defense,” McCarty said. “We created turnovers. But Northridge Prep had better ballhandlers that took care of the ball.”
It didn’t help that Vernon Hills made only 5 of its 24 3-point tries.
“We live and die from the arc, and (Northridge Prep) played a zone. We had to make some 3s and were hot in the first quarter.”
The Cougars jumped out to a 15-8 lead as Stephen Curry scored 7 of his game-high 12 points.
Vernon Hills extended the lead to 13 points at 21-8 with 4:35 left in the second quarter after Tristan Klintworth and Michael Mariella hit treys.
Then foul trouble started to catch up to the Cougars.
The Knights closed out the half on a 12-3 run as Mike Hanretty scored 7 of his team-high 12 points, and Northridge Prep trailed 24-20.
“We had played with a bunch of young guys with no varsity experience,” McCarty said. “They did nice things, but there are things we have to work on. There were some loose balls that (Northridge Prep) came up with that we had an equal opportunity to get.”
The game was tied 27-27 entering the fourth quarter, and it went back and fourth all the way down to the final 20 seconds. That’s when the Knights’ Dylan Haig made 1 of 2 free throws for a 35-34 Knights advantage.
Vernon Hills set up for a last shot from beyond the arc and it went off the mark.
“We didn’t play well defensively in the first quarter,” Northridge Prep coach Will Rey said. “Give a lot of credit to Vernon Hills. They scored more than half of their points in one quarter. The second half was more like we play defensively.
“Sometimes, you’d like to squeeze one out. Vernon Hills played very well and they’re a good team. Every year, we play them. One year they win by 2, another year, we win by 2. Our defense over the last three quarters was the difference in the game.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.