Warren pulls out tight win over Lake Zurich with clutch plays late

North Suburban Conference boys basketball co-leader Lake Zurich's showdown with Warren produced a sectional-esque electricity Friday night in Gurnee.

Then came the power surge early in the fourth quarter on a tying two-hand slam dunk by LZ junior Connor Strauss. That set up an intense final 6:28 that added to the buzz as both teams delivered their best shots for the big and loud crowd.

In this frenzied atmosphere it was composed standout freshman guard Jaxson Davis who delivered the final tie-breaking assist and then the game-sealing steal and 2 free throws with 7.5 seconds to play in Warren's 51-46 victory.

"I knew that dunk gave them lots of momentum," said Davis after scoring a game-high 20 points and getting 4 assists. "I feel I've always been ready for these moments. I had to keep it under control and keep my teammates under control."

That's why Warren coach Zack Ryan told Davis on Thursday he would be the team's captain. Davis' baseline drive and dish to Javerion Banks for a layup put the Blue Devils ahead to stay at 46-44 with 3:39 left.

"I was very excited and I felt I needed to take on the role of being a captain and do well for the team," said Davis, who missed the last 1:24 of the first half after tweaking his left ankle but didn't come out after intermission.

"He's tough," Ryan said. "He's a warrior and we'll go as far as he takes us. He's a special player."

LZ (15-5, 7-2) showed its toughness in rallying from a 29-22 halftime deficit despite falling into a second-place tie with Warren (21-4, 7-2) behind NSC leader Lake Forest (17-5, 8-1), which beat Zion-Benton 82-49. Six-foot-8 juinor Anton Strelnikov scored 7 of his 15 points in the third quarter and one of his 10 rebounds led to the runout and dunk by Strauss that tied it at 38-38.

"I'm proud of the boys for playing 32 minutes and battling through adversity with Nick (Popovic) fouling out," LZ coach Terry Coughlin said of the departure of his senior defensive stopper, who had 9 points, with 4:55 left.

Immanuel Brown hit 2 free throws for Warren but a steal by Ryan Carroll and his lob to Strauss (6 points, 8 rebounds) for a backdoor layup tied it at 44-44 with 3:55 left.

But four more opportunities to tie it after the Davis-Banks connection came up empty for the Bears. The last came when Strelnikov got the ball in the low post and turned for a layup but was called for an offensive foul on Warren's Jack Wolf (5 points, 10 rebounds).

"Defensively I thought we were really good but we've got to hit free throws (12-for-22) and in the first half we had too many live-ball turnovers," Coughlin said after the Bears' 22 turnovers were converted into 17 points by Warren. "We got what we wanted down the stretch and executed, but if we just finished."

Wolf, who got heavy minutes with 6-6 Alex Daniels in foul trouble, banked in the first of 2 free throws with 57.6 seconds left. Sophomore Kain Kretschmar (9 points, 7 rebounds) hit 2 free throws to cut the LZ deficit to 47-46 at 0:33, but Banks (8 points, 6 rebounds) found Daniels for a layup at 0:18.

LZ used its last timeout but Davis thwarted any thoughts of overtime and was part of a big celebration as the Warren students rushed the court at the buzzer.

"I'm really proud of the guys and how they responded," Ryan said after his team rebounded from Tuesday's overtime loss to Stevenson despite shooting just 30 percent (18-for-60) and 4-for-23 on 3s.

"We weren't happy about it and we knew we had to come back," Davis said. "We know we can still win conference and this is a great feeling."

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.