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Varner a bright spot at Libertyville

Libertyville's Matt Varner drives basket for layup during game against Crystal Lake South Dec. 1. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

Libertyville's Matt Varner drives to the basket for a layup during a game against Crystal Lake South on Dec. 1. | Joe Shuman~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 29, 2013 6:24AM

You might think things couldn’t get much worse for the one-win Libertyville boys basketball team, but they could.

Just imagine if they lost Matthew Varner.

“He’s held us together really well,” junior guard Jack Lipp said earlier this month. “Without him, we would have had some pretty bad losses. He’s the only one who scores the ball consistently, so without him we’d be way worse off.”

The Wildcats admit that things haven’t gone according to plan this season. The young squad has been plagued with both injuries and experience problems. At various points, the only thing keeping the thread from unraveling is the spectacular all-around play of Varner.

“He’s got a young team around him that’s been banged up all year, and he’s been our captain and leader,” coach Scott Bogumil said. “He’s kept us together, done a great job with the younger guys and just been the cornerstone. We’ve really been struggling, but he’s done a nice job.”

Varner, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, leads Libertyville in scoring at 14 points per game and is second in both rebounds and assists. He plays four positions, handles the ball efficiently and defends the other team’s top player.

A year after barely averaging a point per game, Varner has shown a natural ability to score. That’s surprising when you consider that scoring is not something he particularly enjoys.

“I always prefer to set up my teammates,” Varner said. “I played point guard my whole life until the last couple years when I’ve been moved around. I enjoy playmaking; it’s always been my thing.”

Varner admitted that evolving from a pass-first facilitator to a leading scorer has been a tough transition, and that sometimes the burden of carrying his team offensively every night becomes a heavy one.

“It’s been difficult,” Varner said. “Last year, I was more of a role player because we had other scorers. But coming into this year I knew I would have to score more. Personally I’ve been scoring a decent amount, and I guess that’s good. But I’d like to try to share the scoring and get some wins.”

Libertyville is playing this week in the 16-team tournament hosted by Wheeling High School.

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