Teamwork helps Libertyville down Neuqua Valley, reach Wheeling title game
It is the season of giving and Libertyville did just that.
Libertyville shared the ball like they were family, accounting for 19 assists as they knocked off Neuqua Valley 61-51 in the semifinals of the 44th annual Hardwood Classic at Wheeling.
Libertyville (12-3) will meet the Glenbrook North/Fremd winner in the championship game at 8:45 p.m. Friday.
Libertyville had 12 assists in the first half as they took a 35-23 lead into the locker room.
"This group has been doing a nice job of sharing and getting great shots," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said. "When they feel the pressure they can find any open man. Anyone can hit the open shot or score down low."
Neuqua Valley (11-3), which had their nine-game winning streak snapped, took an early lead thanks to the play of Nick Lendino. The senior had a basket, a three-pointer, a steal and driving basket and a pair of free throws as Neuqua took a 9-6 lead.
Libertyville then really stepped up its offensive sets. They were patient in offense, finding twin towers Cole Bonder and Aidyn Boone for baskets inside.
When Neuqua began to sag, the ball got kicked out to Jack Huber, Will Buchert as well as Bonder and Boone as Libertyville began to take control.
"It has been all our guys passing the ball to each other," Buchert said. "We are feeding off each other. We move the ball well and it is really hard to guard."
Libertyville led 40-27 on a three-pointer by Buchert with 3:44 left in the third quarter.
Neuqua then began to make a move. Chris Srbinov drilled a half-court shot a the end of the third quarter to cut the lead to 47-41.
Neuqua continued the pressure and was able to get within 51-48 with 1:37 left on a three-pointer by Colin Gerrity.
Libertyville salted the game away from the free-throw line. Libertyville converted 10 consecutive free throws down the stretch with Buchert knocking down six and Huber and Blaise LaVista each drilling a pair.
"Down the stretch you have to make your free throws," Zyrkowksi said. "And our guys did."
Buchert led Libertyville with 23 points. Huber had 13, Bonder had eight, Boone had seven and Henry Eads chipped in six points.
Neuqua was led by Srbinov who had 14 points, Lendino with 13, Luke Kincaid with nine points, Gerrity had seven points and Bryan Thomas with six points.
"We were definitely chasing," Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said. "They beat our traps and nailed those threes in the first half. We did a better job in the second half. We were right there, but they made plays."