Libertyville clinches 1st outright conference title in 30 years

Libertyville wanted to get off to a fast start Tuesday night against visiting Waukegan.

How does 15-0 after one quarter sound?

Senior guard Will Buchert propelled his team to a blazing beginning by scoring the first 7 points of the game, and the Wildcats didn't let up in a history making 61-33 North Suburban Conference win.

The victory gave Libertyville, with an NSC record of 13-1, its first outright conference title in over 30 years.

The last time it happened was believed to have been 1990.

"This means everything," said 6-5 forward Henry Eads, one of 8 seniors on the Wildcats roster. "All of us put in so much work in the summer, in the fall, just dreaming of something like this."

"I'm just so proud of all the guys and the coaches for taking it home. It means a lot to bring it home for the school and have our names up there (on the gym wall) forever."

Another one of the seniors, 6-6 Aidyn Boone, led the way with 16 points, and classmate Drew Williams said it was a proud moment for the entire team.

"Feels awesome," said Williams, "especially being the last home game for us seniors."

"Everybody played great, the starters and the guys coming off the bench."

Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski was impressed with his team's effort the whole way through, but cautioned that it came against a short-handed Bulldogs squad.

"Waukegan had some guys hurt," said the coach. "When they're healthy, they're tough.

"If they get healthy for the playoffs, they'll be dangerous team. Tonight they were missing a bunch of guys."

After the Wildcats pitched a first quarter shutout - 8 minutes of inspired basketball that included 2 3's by Boone - senior Jack Huber kept the run going with a 3-pointer to start the second quarter.

Waukegan fought back behind 3's by Carter Newsome and Darrion Eskridge, but the Wildcats still held a commanding 35-10 halftime lead.

"We were getting some quality possessions," said Zyrkowski. "You can gain something from that and I thought our guys took care of the basketball and played great defense."

Newsome heated up for the Bulldogs in the third quarter by scoring 10 points in the period, and his assist on a 3 by Izaiah Diaz helped his team cut into the lead.

But Boone and teammate Ben Van Lyssel each scored 4 points late in third to keep the Bulldogs at bay, and the Wildcats won going away.

Newsome scored 14 for Waukegan, while Buchert had 10 for Libertyville and Van Lyssel tallied 9.

All the Wildcats seniors made contributions as Kaj Sorensen had 3 steals; Ian Burke, Eads and Williams scored 4 points apiece; Huber scored 6; while Cole Bonder finished with 6 rebounds.

"The guys had some goals this season, and this (the conference title) was one of them," said Zyrkowski, who's team improved to 25-5 overall.

"But they know the job isn't done. They're going to come back in tomorrow and get ready for playoff time."

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