With a division title still in play, Lakes is up against a crucial part of its schedule.
The 15-6 Eagles are nipping at the heels of first-place North Chicago in the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division and could make the standings real interesting, pending their play over the next two weekends.
Lakes will face crosstown rival Antioch on Saturday and is favored to earn the series sweep against the struggling Sequoits. But as Lakes head coach Chris Snyder says, “It’s like the cliché, you can throw out the records in this game. It’s always a big game for both sides with a really great atmosphere. You never know what can happen.”
The Eagles need to make good things happen against Antioch in order for their home game against North Chicago next weekend to matter. North Chicago is undefeated in Prairie Division play. Lakes (7-1) has just 1 division loss, which came at the hands of North Chicago earlier in the season. A win by Lakes next week could force a co-championship if both teams would then win out.
Adding to the hype of the North Chicago game at Lakes next week is its tentative place in Comcast’s television lineup. Lakes has never hosted a television game.
“It would be neat for that game to be on TV because it would add an extra edge to it,” Snyder said. “It’s already a big game for us. I mean, that’s the one. That’s the big one for us in the division. We’re anxious to break through that North Chicago wall.”
North Chicago has been one of the most dominant teams in Lake County in recent years. The Eagles were swept by North Chicago last year during the regular season and then were eliminated from the postseason by North Chicago in the Grayslake Central Class 3A sectional championship.
“It’s become a good rivalry with North Chicago,” Snyder said. “I think both teams like playing each other and the crowds for the games are always really good.
“The last seven or eight games between us have gone North Chicago’s way. They’ve really picked it up in recent years. Our guys know what a huge challenge North Chicago is, but they are really looking forward to playing them again.”
Next weekend’s tilt against North Chicago will actually be the third this season for the Eagles. They faced North Chicago in the Mundelein Thanksgiving tournament early in the season. That game and the first division game of the season between the two teams back in mid-December resulted in losses for Lakes with margins of approximately 15 points apiece.
“We’ve had trouble putting together a complete game against North Chicago this year,” Snyder said. “In both games, we played three good quarters against them, but had one quarter that we just didn’t play well. That’s all it takes against a team like North Chicago.”
“But our guys, especially our seniors, really want this season to end on a high note. They’ve got a ton of desire. They want to win the division and beat North Chicago. I think they’ll be ready to play.”
Before its rivalry with North Chicago kicks into full gear next weekend, Lakes must take care of business in an even bigger rivalry game.
The Eagles will visit sister school Antioch on Saturday and are hoping to maintain their recent record of success in the series. The current seniors for Lakes, which include three-year varsity players Direll Clark (13 ppg), Justin Bergeron (11 ppg) and Jake Kohler (11 ppg), have never lost a game to Antioch.
“When they were freshmen, our seniors defeated Antioch twice as part of the freshman team,” Lakes coach Chris Snyder said. “Then when our guys (Clark, Bergeron and Kohler) moved up to varsity as sophomores, they helped us beat Antioch twice that year. And we beat Antioch twice last year.
“This will be the last time our seniors get to play Antioch and I’ve told them it will be a special game because you never forget those rivalry games.”
Snyder can speak from experience.
He played basketball at Wheaton North and has vivid memories of his crosstown rivalry games against Wheaton Warrenville South.
“I was telling our guys that I can remember those Wheaton South games like they were yesterday,” Snyder said. “We swept them when I was a junior but they swept us when I was a senior, both times in overtime. To this day, whenever I see a Wheaton South score, it kind of gets my dander up.
“I think our guys get just as excited about playing Antioch. It’s about bragging rights. I think our guys will be ready to play.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.