Gearing up for its showdown at Oak Park on Friday, the Lyons Township boys basketball team had the perfect two-game tune-up by notching wins over Waukegan and Downers Grove North last week.
The Lions (12-2, 3-0 West Suburban Silver) established a 19-14 lead early, and gradually pulled away from visiting Waukegan in a convincing 81-55 victory on Saturday. Nick Zeisloft (20 points, 5-for-7 three-pointers) canned a pair of treys and Eric Powers also made a shot beyond the arc in the opening quarter.
“I think both teams were feeling each other out,” LT coach Tom Sloan said. “We gave our players some information about Waukegan, but our guys really don’t know their personnel too well.”
The Lions proved to be quick learners as Dylan Fiedler scored eight of his 14 points in the second quarter to keep LT up 35-27 at halftime. Zeisloft’s trio of consecutive three-pointers during the third quarter coupled with strong bench play – notably Mark Sewall (13 points) – allowed the Lions to cruise the rest of the way.
“Playing an athletic team like Waukegan will help us down the road,” Sewall said. “We played a really athletic Simeon team in the [state] playoffs last season, so it’s good experience for us playing against these kinds of teams.”
In Friday’s 65-31 victory over Downers North, the Lions raced out to a 15-0 advantage and a 21-4 lead after one quarter. With 11 players seeing action in the first half, LT expanded its lead to 36-11 at the intermission.
“We got out of the gate quickly and our kids never let up,” Sloan said. “Our defense created offense.”
Zeisloft led LT with 13 points, while fellow seniors Spencer Mahoney, Powers and Fiedler all chipped in eight points apiece. Defensively, LT forced the Trojans into 26 turnovers.
“Downers Grove North was a big game for us,” Zeisloft said. “One of our main goals is to win conference.”
Since a surprisingly flat effort against Riverside-Brookfield earlier in the season, the Lions have won 9 of 10 games. (Their only setback, a 56-55 overtime loss to Downers South in the Tosh Holiday Classic championship game).
“We hit rock bottom when we lost to RB,” Zeisloft said. “We were awful that game, but we also learned from it and regained our focus.”
The Lions’ considerable progress will be tested against Oak Park. Like LT, the Huskies (7-4, 3-0) are well stocked with talented players like Ka’Darryl Bell, Gabe Levin, Josh Lang and Brian Miller. The rivals split a pair of games last season with LT winning the league title.
“It’s always a great atmosphere when we play Oak Park,” Zeisloft said. “They already beat Proviso West, who was picked to win our conference. I’m sure they’ll want to do the same to us, but we’re really excited to play them.”