Lake Park survives scare from WW South

As the top seed in the Class 4A Addison Trail sectional, Lake Park knows every team in that bracket is coming for them.

That included Wheaton Warrenville South, its opponent in the Willowbrook regional championship Friday in Villa Park.

Despite what many might have predicted would happen, the Lancers had to fight hard for a 41-37 victory over a pesky Tigers team. The Lancers’ season will continue in the sectional semifinals against Glenbard North at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

“Survive and advance,” Lancers coach Billy Pitcher said. “We made a lot of mistakes that we need to talk about and clean up in order to keep advancing. But survive and advance at this point.”

Both teams had long pass-heavy possessions in the first half, and Lake Park (28-3) took only a 19-15 lead into the break. With seven points apiece in the third quarter from Joe Preede and Luca Carbonaro, Wheaton Warrenville South (14-18) took a three-point lead before falling behind by one entering the fourth.

The Lancers went up by six late in the fourth quarter before a Preede 3-pointer cut that lead in half. The Tigers took the ball back after a defensive stop and eventually called a timeout with 44 seconds left to draw up a play that could tie the game.

The game-tying shot never got off as a Dennasio LaGioia steal cut the possession short, and the Tigers were forced to foul. While the Lancers made only one of four free throws over a couple of trips to the foul line in the final seconds, one was enough to make it a two-possession game and give them the win.

“I saw the ball was loose and misdribbled,” LaGioia said about his steal. “And I just decided to stick a hand out there and picked it off.”

Four of LaGioia’s five field goals were 3-pointers, which allowed him to lead Lake Park with 14 points. Tommy Rochford was just behind with 13 points, all of which were scored in the first three quarters.

“Rochford and LaGioia are two of the best shooters I've ever coached,” said Pitcher. “So having them to be able to space the floor like that, it makes it hard to defend when you gotta defend (senior guard Camden) Cerese at that level, and then, some other guys got some buckets inside.”

Preede led all scorers and Wheaton Warrenville South with 18 points. Carbonaro also kept the Tigers in it until the end by scoring 12 of his 14 points in the second half.

“We told our guys that they're an extremely well-coached team,” Pitcher said of the Tigers. “They're a great program. They're physical. They got multiple shooters, and they played their best half of the year, I thought, in the first half against Geneva (in the regional semifinals). And they were gonna come in with nothing to lose.”

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