Lake Zurich finds a way to knock off Waukegan
It took a long time for Lake Zurich to put Waukegan away, but the host Bears got the job done in their North Suburban Conference boys basketball opener Thursday night.
The Bulldogs trailed 52-41 after a 3-pointer by Brandon Phillips to open the fourth quarter. But Lake Zurich (4-2, 1-0) went on a quick 7-0 run to build their biggest lead of the game at 58-42 on a three-point play by senior Ryan Carroll with 6:55 to play.
And while Waukegan (2-2, 0-1) kept trying to put together a late comeback, the Bears played steady down the stretch to seal a 71-60 NSC victory.
Lake Zurich used a balanced offensive attack to get the win as 6-foot-8 junior Anton Strelnikov scored 13 of his team-high 19 points in the second half to help lead the way to the victory.
Senior Nick Popovic hit double figures for the Bears with 14 points as did teammates Connor Strauss and Carroll with 11 points each. Lake Zurich shot 45 percent from the field overall, including 5 for 15 from 3-point range.
"We started off pretty slow, we played down a little bit, but at halftime our team collaborated and we bounced back to get the victory," said Strelnikov, whose team led 34-28 at halftime and 51-39 after three quarters. "I think we're really tight as a team on and off the floor, and I think if we just communicate through the plays and work together as a team that's the key to success."
Senior Nehemiah Dunn had a big game for Waukegan with 17 of this game-high 25 points in the first half before fouling out with 1:06 to play. Simereon Carter scored 9 points for the Bulldogs followed by teammates Joey Worthington with 8 points, and Adrian Serrano with 6 points. Lake Zurich's Jonathan Fleaka had 6 points on two 3-pointers.
"Every guy we bring in can hopefully bring us better energy, elevate the group a little bit, and we don't lose much coming in with our bench which I think helps us kind of outlast teams in a 32-minute game," said Lake Zurich coach Terry Coughlin. "It may not always be pretty, and every guy that comes in we have confidence in them as well."
Coughlin is optimistic for the upside that Strelnikov has shown in the early stages of the new season and beyond.
"He loves basketball, he always wants to improve, and he just gets better every game," Coughlin added. "He just focuses on what's best for the group but then also getting better every day in practice and he's always in the gym."