Lake Park storms past Wheaton Warrenville South to win DuKane Conference championship

Lake Park senior guard Matthew Geraci might have summed it up best after the visiting Lancers defeated Wheaton Warrenville South 41-24 Wednesday night to clinch the DuKane Conference boys basketball championship.

“This,” Geraci said, “is what you work so hard for.”

Cam Cerese, one of five Lake Park senior starters, scored 25 points as the Lancers won their first conference title since 2015, that coming in the DuPage Valley Conference.

Lake Park broke the Tigers’ three-year title streak.

“This means a little more,” Geraci said, “because this is the same team that beat us on our floor last year to win it."

Lancers coach Billy Pitcher said that that the crown is a “testament to all the work the guys have put in over the years.”

“We’ve had a lot of close, tough games in the league this year. It’s a tough league with a lot of different styles. This is the first time in my career that I’ve won a conference title, but it’s these guys who did it. They’re the ones who made the plays.”

Senior center Pavle Magazin was the catalyst as Lake Park ran out to a quick 8-point lead. The 6-foot-8 senior assisted classmate Dennasio LaGioia on a layup, scored on a close-in jumper; then fed Cerese for a bucket.

Then the vaunted Lake Park defense held WW South to just 2 points in the second quarter, opening a 19-8 halftime advantage.

The Lancers (25-3, 12-0) increased the lead to 30-11, but 8 straight points by the Tigers, including 3s from Matt Nadelhoffer and Luca Carbonaro, got WW South back into the game. Cerese shut the door by scoring 8 points early in the fourth to put the game out of reach.

“We just had to stay calm tonight,” said Lake Park senior Jeremy Zakic, “Wheaton Warrenville South has a great defense, so we had to take care of the ball and do what we do.

“This is the greatest feeling in the world,” he added. “Every year, (the Tigers) seem to get us. I’ve been in the program all four years, and on the feeder teams before that, and I’m just so happy we were able to get them this year.”

Pitcher talked about all the perseverance it took for his team to finally reach the top.

“Their freshman year was COVID,” he said of the seniors, “so it was a shortened season playing with masks. Then they had to play again with masks on their whole sophomore year.”

“They’ve put in the work in the off-season, over the summer, to get ready for this,” the coach added. " You don’t win games the day of the game, it’s all the work you put in over the years.”

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