Cool under pressure
Lyons boys rally late past Bulldogs
By Steve Metsch
Capping an intense rally, Lyons Township seniors Josh Heath and Michael Niedermeyer were cool when the heat was on.
Each senior hit two free throws in the closing moments to seal a 56-49 victory over Riverside-Brookfield (19-10) in La Grange on Feb. 22.
Lyons (19-8) had trailed by 11 in the third quarter. Seniors Grant Niego and Stefan Vasic each scored 12 to lead Lyons.
“Knowing kids on that team, it’s always a huge win to beat R-B,” Heath said.
Heath hit his two freebies with 41.9 seconds left to give Lyons a 52-49 lead. Niedermeyer aced his pair with 8.9 seconds remaining for 54-49 lead.
If they were nervous, it didn’t show.
“Just going out there confident,” Heath said.
“We practice plenty of free throws every day. Go through my routine and knocking them down. We shoot probably over 100 free throws in practice,” Heath said.
After Heath’s free throws, R-B’s Paul Zilinskas saw a shot rim out. Niego grabbed the rebound, was fouled and missed a free throw. After Lyons prevented another R-B shot, Niedermeyer was fouled and converted twice.
The Lions trailed 29-18 before their 38-20 scoring spree.
Lyons Head Coach Tom Sloan said defense made the difference.
“Putting pressure on the basketball, making their guards handle the ball,” Sloan said. “The kids really sold themselves defensively in the last 10, 12 minutes. That’s what got us back in the game and kind of turned the tide.”
Each coach praised the other’s team, and called the game a good tune-up for the state playoffs that begin next week.
Sloan said the Lions were fortunate a late mistake “didn’t come back to bite us.”
He referred to Niego fouling the Bulldogs’ Paul Zilinskas on a three-point try with 2:32 to play and the Lions comfortably leading, 50-41.
Zilinskas, who scored 14 of his game-high 16 points in the second half, hit all three free throws to cut Lyons’ lead to 50-44.
Moments later, Jack Stivers’ trey had R-B trailing 50-47. Stivers, who scored 13, then cut that to 50-49 with another basket with just over 1:00 left. But R-B did not score again.
Bulldogs Head Coach Mike Reingruber said “we lost our composure offensively” after taking the 11-point lead.
“(We) took some quick shots, took contested shots, shots from guys who aren’t necessarily shooters. We didn’t make any of them. (Lyons) came down and made some shots, gave them some life,” Reingruber said. “There you have it.”
Lyons was more rested being idle on Feb. 21 while R-B was busy losing 74-69 at Aurora Christian. And, R-B was without guards Luke Gentile and Ryan Gaynor.
“We were definitely fatigued,” Reingruber said. “Give credit to LT. They played a great game … Number 30 (Christian Desimone) hit some big shots.”
Desimone scored three three-pointers for Lyons. “He’s a really good shooter … The guys found him tonight,” Sloan said.
Lyons outscored R-B 19-17 in the third quarter with Ben Engels’ second three-pointer giving Lyons a 35-34 lead heading into the fourth.
“It’s huge, coming close to playoffs. We just want to keep winning, stay hot,” Engels, who scored eight points, said of the win.
Lyons salted away the victory by outscoring R-B, 21-15, in the fourth quarter. Six Lions scored in the final quarter.
Lyons – which won 78-62 at Willowbrook on Tuesday night – is getting hot at the right time. The Lions have won six straight games and 11 of 13.
“Winning’s a habit,” Niedermeyer said. “If we can win a bunch of games going into the playoffs, that’s good. A good roll.”
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