Libertyville survives Stevenson's comeback in NSC showdown
With a late 9-point run by visiting Stevenson, it was inevitable that the battle for first-place in the North Suburban Conference would go down to the wire Friday night at Libertyville.
The Patriots trailed the host Wildcats 39-28 with 3:00 to play, but they cut the gap to 39-38 on a 3-pointer by Michael Maloney with 56 seconds to play.
Libertyville's Will Buchert hit two free throws with 46.5 seconds left for a 41-38 lead as Stevenson (20-6, 11-2) had plenty of time for a potential game-tying 3-pointer.
The Pats kept working the ball around looking for that 3-pointer to no avail as David Sulnius settled for a 2-point basket on a drive with four seconds to go. But with no timeouts remaining, the Wildcats (23-5, 12-1) were able to allow time to run out for an exciting 41-40 NSC victory without even having to inbound the ball.
With the win, the Wildcats are in a great position to win the conference title outright by beating visiting Waukegan on Tuesday.
"We got back in the game and shot with confidence at one point, but it was too little, too late, and we kind of let them get away from us too far," said Stevenson coach Pat Ambrose, whose team was outrebounded 24-16. "Libertyville is tough on their home floor with five senior starters and we lost by one so give them the credit, but we grew tonight."
Both teams struggled through a cold shooting contest as the Patriots shot just 35 percent from the field (14-for-40) to 37 percent for Libertyville (14-for-37).
Senior Aidyn led the Wildcats' offense with 13 points while Buchert (89 percent free throw shooter) had 9 points.
Stevenson's late rally started with two free throws by Jack Dabbs (7 points) before a driving basket by Sulnius, and a 3-pointer off a turnover by Sulnius made the score 39-35 with 1:16 left.
"We know they're going to make their runs and we're also going to make our runs," said Buchert, whose team led 30-24 after three quarters. "We finished strong, and we get the win any way possible whether it be by 1 or 30."
Stevenson's Christian Uremovich was not on the floor for the final possession, but he led the Pats with a game-high 14 points. Sulnius had 9 points while Maloney had 6 points. Henry Eads and Kaj Sorensen had 6 points each for Libertyville while teammate Jack Huber added 5 points.
"That was just a great atmosphere, it felt like a sectional final game in our gym against a really good basketball team and we're the No. 1 and 2 teams in our sectional," said Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski. "That last defensive possession I thought we did a nice job slowing it down, taking away the 3-point shot and forcing them to shoot a 2 and the clock ran out."