Lake Zurichs developing a winning identity
Black-haired with similar physical frames, Lake Zurich basketball teammates John Repplinger and Ryan Roach may be cousins but, truthfully, the two senior guards look nothing alike.
Their mothers are a different story.
Repplinger's mom, Justine, and Roach's mom, Kim, are identical twins.
"I don't (confuse them)," Roach said. "But a lot of my friends do, certainly."
Aside from 6-foot-6 sophomore center Will McClaughry, Lake Zurich's starters could pass for brothers considering they play similar styles and range in height from 5-11 (Repplinger) to 6-2 (Roach and Mike Travlos) to 6-3 (Brad Kruse). They like to push the ball and look to shoot from the arc. The host Bears did that well enough Saturday night to turn away pesky Libertyville 56-44 in a North Suburban Lake Division contest.
Lake Zurich got a game-high 16 points from Travlos, 12 from Roach, 9 and 8 rebounds from Repplinger, 8 points from Kruse and 7 boards from McClaughry. Travlos and Kruse each hit a pair of 3-pointers.
"I thought we fastbreaked better than we have all year," Roach said. "We got the ball to the basket, and that's what we really try to do and what we emphasized in practice this whole week. I thought we came out and executed. We got them on their heels a lot and got a lot of easy baskets."
Lake Zurich (4-4, 1-2) led from start to end, opening the game with a 7-0 run and building a double-digit lead by the middle of the third quarter. But Libertyville (1-6, 0-2) was still within seven points after junior guard Jack Lipp (team-high 14 points) sank his third 3-pointer of the night with 1:03 left in the fourth.
Jack Arends answered for Lake Zurich with a layup, and a Travlos free throw pushed the lead back to 10.
Libertyville, which continues to play without a pair of projected starters, sophomore point guard Drew Cayce (ankle) and 6-5 junior forward John Vernasco (concussion), shot just 8 of 18 from the foul line.
"We just can't score," Libertyville coach Scott Bogumil said.
"Defensively, we did all right in spurts," Wildcats senior guard Matt Varner said. "We got some big steals and hit some big shots. I think we just need to play more as a team on defense, play more as a unit. We're a young team, so there are times when we look really good, and there are times when we need some work."
Bears coach Billy Pitcher assigned Repplinger to defend Varner, who was held to 8 points (2 of 6 from foul line). Pitcher knows how good a player Varner is, having coached him on the freshman level at Libertyville three years ago.
"Matt Varner, I just love that kid," Pitcher said. "He's such a competitor. He had a great game tonight on both ends of the floor. He's so tough to stop. He's big, he's strong and he's crafty around the basket. He really played hard. He did a great job making things hard on us."
"He's really good," Repplinger said of Varner. "He's big and strong, and he can finish well. He's a good slasher and cutter. My key job tonight was to stay in front of him, try to body him up and not let him get to the paint."
Repplinger was playing hard to the end, twisting his ankle while taking a charge with 28 seconds left and the Bears up by 10 points. He limped off the court and was icing the ankle after the game.
"It isn't too bad. Just like a sprain," Repplinger said.
Lake Zurich opened the game with Travlos (17-footer), Roach (14-footer) and Kruse (3-pointer) all hitting jumpers, but Libertyville stayed close. Varner's scoop had the visitors within 23-22 at halftime.
Travlos' three-point play midway through the third quarter capped an 11-0 spurt to start the second half and had the Bears up 34-22. But Lipp's personal eight-point run (two 3s) brought the Wildcats back within 34-30 entering the fourth.
"They never went away," Roach said. "I thought we did a good job. We didn't panic. We just stuck with our game and we started hitting our shots again."
Libertyville was still within 39-35 after 6-8 sophomore Joe Borcia (10 points, 9 rebounds) scored with 5:50 left, but Lake Zurich continued to execute at the offensive end. The Bears went 6 of 10 from the floor and 9 of 10 from the stripe in the fourth.
"I thought we made some good decisions offensively (overall)," Pitcher said. "We spread it around and got some open looks."
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