By Marty Farmer
Before taking on top-seeded Geneva in the semifinals of the Class 4A Bartlett Sectional, Lyons Township coach Tom Sloan praised the Vikings for their sensational season.
"Geneva is as good as any team we have faced this year," Sloan said. "Their point guard [Jack McDonald] is an outstanding player and they have a shooter [Mitch Mascari] who has tremendous range and a very quick release. It will be quite a challenge for our guys, but they are excited for the opportunity."
While the Lions put up an admirable fight, Geneva pulled away in the second half to emerge with a 54-41 victory.
Trailing by five points at the end of the first quarter, LTHS outscored the Vikings 15-14 in the second quarter to pull within 29-25 at the half. That's the closest the Lions would get however, as Geneva extended its lead to 44-32 after three quarters.
"Geneva scored a couple of quick baskets in the third quarter and we were chasing them the rest of the game." Sloan said.
Grant Niego led the Lions with 11 points and two steals, while Josh Berry scored eight points and Nolan Niego chipped in six points and three boards.
"The boys competed really hard," Sloan said. "We didn't have our best shooting night of the season in all aspects, including free throws. If anybody beats Geneva, they are going to have to play very well to do it."
McDonald had 20 points, eight rebounds and five assist for Geneva. Josh Preston (15 points) and Mascari (8 points, 3 rebounds) also contributed for the victors. The Vikings also won the battle of the boards, 29-18.
Geneva, which set a school record for single –season wins (31) in defeating LTHS, takes on Downers Grove North in the sectional final on Friday, March 8. Tip-off is 7 p.m.
Lions edge Glenbard West in regional final
In a regional final against Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn, LTHS senior guard Tyrese Shines led the Lions with 18 points and eight rebounds. Grant Niego (12 points), Berry (9 points, 3 assists) and Matt Sloyan (8 points, 5 rebounds) also contributed strong efforts.
LTHS led 16-8 at the end of the first quarter and extended its advantage to 36-24 at halftime. Although the Lions didn't shoot particularly well (18-for-52/36.8 percent) they made 13 of 16 free throws, committed only four turnovers and kept their composure on the road.
"Winning the regional title in their gym, especially after winning there two weeks ago, was very difficult to do," Sloan said. "I am very proud of the effort and teamwork that the team showed."
In the semifinal, the Lions defeated Hinsdale South 58-44 as Shines (20 points, 8 rebounds) Berry (18 points) and Grant Niego (12 points, 5 rebounds) all scored in double figures. Nolan Niego added seven rebounds, three steals and plenty of hustle.
After establishing a 12-8 advantage after one quarter, the Lions outscored the Hornets 32-20 over the middle quarters en route to victory.
The Lions (23-10) enjoyed a successful season, highlighted by winning their own Thanksgiving tourney title, the aforementioned regional championship, and a solid third-place showing in the well regarded West Suburban Conference Silver Division.
"This was a very fun team to coach. The players were unselfish, hardworking and unified," Sloan said. "We had a lot of skilled players who were willing to sacrifice individual stats for team success. Hopefully, the younger players in the program will carry the torch that these seniors pass to them."