The Lyons Township High School boys basketball team may have graduated four starters from its IHSA Class 4A sectional finalist squad, but a collective confidence remains.
Trailing by seven points at halftime on Nov. 23, the Lions responded with a great second half to defeat Lincoln-Way East 58-51 and capture the championship of their four-team, round-robin Thanksgiving tournament for the fourth straight time.
“A lot of what basketball is, is rhythm. It’s a game of momentum and a game of swings,” LTHS senior guard Jackson Niego said.
Senior Nik Polonowski led the comeback with 19 of his game-high 22 points in the second half and added four rebounds. Other standouts were Niego (18 points), Carter Reid (6 points, 5 rebounds), Matthew DeSimone (6 points), Connor Carroll (4 points), Graham Smith (5 rebounds) and Brady Chambers (4 rebounds).
“We knew from last year that we’re going to have to step up. For us to come up with a big, high-pressure win is great,” Niego said.
“It was huge,” LTHS coach Tom Sloan said. “Lincoln-Way’s very good. They’re big, strong, physical and defend really well. They crash the glass. Our guys found a way and hung in there.”
The Lions had dominated Maine South 52-22 on Nov. 22 behind a 14-0 start and Fenger 80-25 in the Nov. 21 opener but trailed Lincoln-Way East 24-17 at the half.
Polonowski had all five of his threes in the second half as the Lions improved their field-goal percentage from 30 percent to 47 for the game. LTHS led 37-34 entering the fourth quarter.
Sloan complimented Niego for handling the Griffins’ intense ball pressure and the team for confronting the overall physicality of the contest.
“They do a lot of ball pressure and for me, that’s a strength of mine, getting through the defense and kind of controlling everything, handling the ball, getting to the free-throw line,” Niego said.
Reid had 10 points and nine rebounds against Maine South. Niego (3 assists) and DeSimone each had eight points, followed by Carroll and Polonowski (6 points each) and Smith and Chambers (4 points, 4 rebounds each).
Reid (7 rebounds) and Polonowski (4 rebounds) both had 13 points against Fenger. Niego (10 points), Chambers (8 points, 6 rebounds), DeSimone (8 points), Michael Reilly (7 points), Caleb Greer (6 points), Smith and Patrick Kracker (4 rebounds each) and Carroll (3 assists) also contributed.