Sophomore duo leads Lake Zurich to OT win over Lake Forest

Lake Zurich sophomores Avery Cooper and Molly Friesen have been playing together since fifth grade.

"So it's nice to continue to play together in high school because we can both feed off each other's energy," Friesen said.

The tenth-graders sure helped energize the Bears' offense on Tuesday night in a North Suburban Conference Lake Division showdown against visiting Lake Forest (11-3, 4-2).

Cooper, a 6-2 guard, struck for a career-high 23 points (four 3-pointers) and Friesen, a 6-foot guard, tied her career-high of 17 points (two 3-pointers) as the Bears (11-2, 6-0) recovered from losing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to survive Lake Forest 48-45 in overtime.

Cooper started the extra session with a 3-pointer but Lake Forest senior Aliya Maldanado (career-high 17 points) answered with her own 3.

Back-to-back buckets by 6-foot junior Anna Gilbertson put the Bears in front 46-42 before Maldanado hit another 3 to make it 46-45 with 40 seconds left.

Gilbertson then zipped a pass inside to 6-foot senior Brooke Wahlund, who scored her only basket of the game with 10,9 seconds left that proved to be the final points in the Bears' dramatic win.

"Was that entertaining?" asked Bears coach Chris Bennett, the winningest coach in program history (268 wins in 18 seasons) who has guided his team to its first perfect first half of conference play since 2012. "I'm kind of exhausted."

His players kept their energy alive after Lake Forest's big fourth quarter 12-0 run led to a 34-33 lead when Sarah Constantine hit a 3-pointer with 3:03 left in regulation.

"It was definitely good to see us come together at the end and hit some clutch shots," Friesen said. "We really worked together to find the right passes and make it work at the end even though it wasn't pretty for some parts of the game."

The game was tied at 36-36 when Cooper's 3-pointer with 1:48 left gave the Bears a 39-36 lead.

Cornell-bound Rachel Kaus (17 points) hit a 23-foot 3-pointer with five seconds left to send the game to OT. Lake Zurich senior Baylie Parks' 35-footer circled around the rim and out just before the buzzer sounded.

"We made plays at the end," Bennett said. "Lake Forest did a great job and took away a lot of things we were looking for. Sometimes you just make enough plays at the end to win and that was tonight."

"Credit to Lake Zurich," said Lake Forest coach Stacey Leach, whose team hit 11 3-pointers. "They're a great team. But my kids like to fight and they're competitive and we gave them a little run. We'll have a shot when they come visit us and hopefully we might get different results. My kids played hard. The effort is there. We just had to hit a couple more shots."

The Bears' first five rebounds in the first three minutes were from each starter Parks, Gilbertson, Wahlund, Cooper and Friesen.

The hosts led 5-0 after a putback by Gilbertson off her own shot and a 3-pointer by Friesen with 3:49 left. Cooper converted her offensive rebound into a 6-foot basket from the baseline and the lead was 7-2 with 1:55 left.

The hosts led by 4 at intermission and came out with a 10-5 run in the second half to lead 28-17 when Cooper hit a 3-pointer with 4:29 left in the third quarter.

"We're happy to end the first half of conference undefeated," Bennett said. "All we talk about is putting ourselves in position for the second half of the season and we did that."

"I'm very thankful we could come together, make some shots and got the job done to stay undefeated in conference," Friesen said.

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