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Huge crowd watches prep hoops rivals battle to the wire

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LET’S PLAY HOOPS SUNDAY FALL LEAGUE

Updated: December 4, 2013 2:40AM



What happened last Sunday night at the Let’s Play Hoops high school boys basketball fall league at Trinity International University in Deerfield/Bannockburn is proof positive that Lake County is ready for its greatest basketball season ever.

On a Sunday night, 150 basketball fans showed up at the TIU fieldhouse (Route 22, just east of the tollway) to watch rivals and basketball powerhouses North Chicago and Zion-Benton square off. There was so many people on hand for the game, that the Stevenson/Waukegan contest that was supposed to go on at the same time had to be moved to another court so bleachers and chairs could be set up to accommodate the crowd.

The atmosphere was electric, the level of play for a Sunday night in October was extraordinary, and if you were a Z-B fan, you went home happy, courtesy of a 61-57 victory.

Those on hand had never seen anything like it in terms of a crowd for a fall league game in which the players coach themselves.

That included King Coleman, North Chicago’s coach who watched the game from a chair in the corner near the Zee-Bee bench. “I was pretty impressed, but these are the things we go through every year,” he said. “These kids play Warren or Waukegan or Zion, and the intensity rises to a different level.”

As for the crowd, he added, “It really is amazing. I think it’s a great sign that this is going to be an exciting year for basketball in Lake County.”

To the fans’ delight, this was a game where the play usually transcended the jawing between the teams despite neither being in “basketball shape.” The Warhawks played with an intensity they might not bring to the court even once this coming season. Meanwhile, the Zee-Bees showed they can play smart when they need to against a team that typically plays fast while getting crucial contributions from more than just Milik Yarbrough.

The Zee-Bees scored the game’s final four points, hitting a pair of free throws with under two minutes to play to break a 57-57 tie. After missing a shot, senior forward Kurt Hall came up with a tremendous block of a Yarbrough dunk attempt to keep the Warhawks within a bucket.

Senior guard JaVairius Amos-Mays missed a shot at the other end and North Chicago was ultimately called for traveling after grabbing the rebound. Yarbrough took the ball to the rack to put the Bees up 61-57, and senior center Chris Moragne took a charge from Hall to effectively end the game.

The Bees built a 29-20 lead just before halftime and led 29-21 at the break, but Amos-Mays played like a man possessed to start the second half, bombing home back-to-back threes and hitting a third that was waved off due to a scoreboard malfunction moments earlier. A minute later. he converted a three-point play and then drained another three to pull North Chicago to within 36-35.

Then it was JayQuan McCloud’s turn. He used a spectacular spin move to open himself up for a jumper at the top of the key, then followed that up with fancy handles to free himself for a three that gave North Chicago a 41-40 lead.

Zion picked up the game’s only technical foul to fall behind 43-40, but the rest of the way. the Bees aggressively took the ball to the rim and used their size to convert rebounds into points. Zion-Benton outrebounded North Chicago 32-14.

North Chicago’s ability to run was hampered by the absence of football players Arnold Shead and Jamero Shelton. Both will play significant minutes at guard this year. On the other side, the Zee-Bees played without point guard Maurice Young and forward Trenton curry, two returning starters who also play football.

Zion-Benton junior Admiral Schofield was a beast in the first half, scoring 9 points and pulling in 9 rebounds before the break. He finished with 16 and 13. Yarbrough led all scorers with 23 points, including a 17-point second-half performance. He also grabbed eight rebounds. Senior forward Jerome Davis, a transfer from Waukegan, added 14 and six for the Zee-Bees.

McCloud scored 22 and Hall 13 for North Chicago. Amos-Mays had 16, including four three-pointers. He saw varsity action coming off the bench for Zion-Benton as a freshman before transferring to North Chicago his sophomore year.

If the teams meet during the high school season, it will come in the North Suburban Conference Championship Game which would be played at North Chicago. Tickets for that game are not yet on sale.

Here’s what some of the participants said about the contest:

■ North Chicago’s McCloud” “We’ve been talking about this game since the week before. This is what we’ve been waiting for. When we joined the fall league, we wanted to play Zion. “We’d love to be able to play them again. We think of them as a rival.”

■ The Admiral, Z-B’s exciting junior Admiral Schofield: “We tried not to focus too much on the rivalry. We wanted to come out, play team ball, and focus on doing what we didn’t do well last week. We didn’t start out well last week (a victory over Fremd that the Zee-Bees trailed at halftime), so we wanted to come out, play as a team, and work on developing our chemistry.”

■ Z-B star Yarbrough: “We knew we were too big, too strong, and too physical for them. They can run and shoot, but they weren’t going to be able to stop us. Unfortunately, we got into it a little bit with them and let them back into the game. We started talking and worrying too much about what they were doing. When you’re the better team, you just have to stay focused on what you do.”



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