Updated: February 13, 2013 6:07AM
The Lakes Eagles remained in title contention in the North Suburban Conference Prairie Division by holding off visiting Vernon Hills 63-50 on Friday night.
Lakes is now 5-1 in the division, trailing 6-0 North Chicago, and the Eagles are 13-5 going into Saturday night’s game against highly regarded Zion-Benton.
Vernon Hills is 3-3 in the division and 7-10 overall. The Cougars host Stevenson on Saturday night.
The game actually was much more exciting than the final score would suggest.
After a dunk by Direll Clark gave the Eagles a 47-34 lead after three quarters, Vernon Hills battled back to within 51-48 and twice fired up three-pointers in search for the tie, but could not hit.
After Jake Kohler scored for Lakes to make it 53-48, the roof-raising moment occurred. Vernon Hills star Stephen Curry (game-high 21 points) launched a three-ball that hit the rim, and then the top of the backboard and then dropped through the hoop. The refs waved off the bucket, frustrating Cougar fans who’d seen a similar-looking shot by Lakes in the first half be counted — likely because it didn’t hit the top of the glass.
Lakes then finished the game on an 8-0 run to win by double digits.
Vernon Hills got off to a strong start and led 18-14 after one quarter. But Lakes took command at 33-26 by halftime.
Both teams came into the game on two-game losing streaks that were fashioned at holiday tournaments (Lakes at Jacobs and Vernon Hills at Wheeling).
For the game, Lakes was 25-of-69 shooting, with Clark scoring 11 points, Kohler 17 and Justin Bergeron 10.
Nate Rathod had 10 points for Vernon Hills.
The dunk by the 6-1 Clark was his first of the season, and he was fired up about it.
“We played great tonight coming off of two weeks off,” he said. “We played with confidence and are headed in the right direction.
“We picked up our defense at the end to lock down the game.”
Lakes coach Chris Snyder was glad to see his team sharp after two losses in the tourney, followed by the layoff.
“This was an up-and-down game for us. We started a little slow, but we were able to pick up our intensity,” Snyder said. “This was a good way to start the year and get back on the winning side.
“We have a big game tomorrow (Saturday, 7:30) against (Zion-Benton and star Milik) Yarbrough, and the kids are looking forward to it.”
On the other side, Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty liked the way his team refused to fold after falling behind by double digits.
“We had a nice little run in the fourth quarter to get it down to three and Stephen Curry (nine fourth-quarter points) had a bit part of it,” he said. “I was happy with our effort tonight. Our kids battled on the boards.
“It’s tough playing against Lakes. They are really strong inside.”