Competing against Bartlett, as Lake Park boys basketball coach Josh Virostko put it, is a matter of picking your poison.
When the teams last met on Dec. 1, Bartlett’s Lance Whitaker scored 22 points and point guard Marcus Aluquin finished with 13, but guard Jon Moss was held in check because the Lancers opted to face guard the deadly 3-point shooter, who nails 40 percent of his attempts.
Lake Park lost the first meeting by 16 points, thus the Lancers switched strategy for Friday’s rematch between the streaking Upstate Eight Valley teams. However, one adjustment was to not face guard Moss. The third-year varsity guard made them pay right from the start.
Moss sank 4 of 5 first-quarter shots, including a trio of 3-pointers, staking Bartlett to a 10-point lead after a quarter. The Hawks never allowed the Lancers within 5 points of the lead again and sank 13 of 14 free throws in the fourth quarter to balloon their advantage as high as 14 points in an eventual 48-41 Upstate Eight Valley victory in Roselle.
“I saw my guy wasn’t face guarding and my teammates saw it,” said Moss, who canned 5 of 8 shots from 3-point range to finish with a game-best 19 points. “They got me the ball and I was able to knock down some open shots.”
Lake Park (13-7, 3-5) limited Aluquin — a 43-percent long-range shooter himself — to 2 points this time around. But UIC-bound Whitaker scored 18, his season average.
“If you’re going to face guard (Moss) and go four-on-four with Whitaker on the court, your help-side defense is probably going to be in trouble,” Virostko said. “That’s why they’re good. There’s a reason they’re a top-10 team, because they’ve got parts. Some teams only have one guy you’ve got to stop but when you’ve got parts, you’ve got to pick and choose your poison.”
The victory was the sixth straight for Bartlett (15-4, 6-1), which kept pace in the loss column with division leader Neuqua Valley (16-1, 7-1). Neuqua edged Waubonsie Valley 50-47 Friday. The loss snapped Lake Park’s 6-game win streak.
“We’re not satisfied,” Moss said of the streak, “but we’re happy with the wins and with beating (Lake Park) in their gym. Away game, Friday night after finals. It was a big win for us.”
Only 6-foot-3 junior Sean Moore (10 points) cracked double-digits for the Lancers. Though the turnover and rebounding totals were essentially a wash and though Lake Park won the second half 27-23, the first-quarter damage inflicted by Moss proved too much to overcome.
Lake Park’s best quarter was the third, when it outscored Bartlett 13-8 to draw within 33-27. A free throw by senior Carlos Cortez cut the deficit to 5 points at the onset of the final period, but Bartlett responded by getting to the line and hitting 7 straight free throws.
Bartlett junior Justin Busch, who led the sophomore team in free-throw shooting last season but had been struggling at 36 percent this season, nailed all 6 of his free throws in the fourth quarter. He credited several extra hours in the gym during finals week for helping him find his touch.
“I know going into the tournament we’re going to have games where we can get ahead of teams and we’re going to need to knock down free throws,” Busch said. “I’m in at the end of the game for my defense, so I have to be able to knock them down.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.