A dejected group of Lake Forest High School basketball players took their first steps toward advancing to Sectional play in 2012 Friday night as they walked out of Fremd’s gym after falling to the host Vikings, 44-38, in the Regional final.
While the Vikings received their championship trophy and cut the nets from the hoops, the Scouts closed out the season, trudged out of the arena with a 13-16 record and into next season ready to turn dejection into success.
“This feeling really sucks,” sophomore guard Carter Bass said. “We don’t want to feel this way again.”
Bass is one of four starters returning next year. He will be joined by Thomas Durrett, John Hayes and Creighton Titus. All four developed through the season to display leadership at key times. Only seniors Alex Schwartz, Alex Newman and Jack Ford graduate.
“This was good experience to play in the final,” Lake Forest coach Phil LaScala said. “They know what it’s like. Now they know what to expect.”
Lake Forest was never more than two possessions away from going ahead throughout the game. Leading briefly in the third quarter, they had a chance to win until the final minute.
“If we held them under 50, we knew we would be in the game. They took us out of our comfort zone some,” said LaScala, explaining his team did not gain its usual looks at the basket.
While Durrett and Bass played at the varsity level a year ago, Hayes has been improving steadily throughout the season. His efforts culminated with a 17-point performance Tuesday to lead the Scouts into Friday’s championship game with a 47-40 semifinal win over Zion-Benton.
Titus, a 6-foot-9 junior who never played basketball until his freshman year, became a presence the last month of the season.
”He’s really developed the last month. We worked on the fundamentals every day,” LaScala said. “He got more experience, more time on the floor.”
Titus was a presence under the basket for the Scouts to help neutralize Fremd’s 6-5 football star center Jack Konopka. He did the same Tuesday against Zion Benton’s 6-8 Curtis Cook.
“I tried to keep him away from the boards and out of his zone,” Titus said. Not only did the Scout center limit Konopka to five points, he kept him from making outlet passes to ignite the Vikings fast break.
Titus credits senior leadership from Newman, Schwartz and Ford for thrusting him into a starting role. The seniors spoke to the team four weeks ago to inspire a strong post season run. The message was not lost on Titus.
“The seniors really helped,” Titus said. “We wanted them to go out winners. We didn’t want to disappoint them.”
Unlike Hayes and Bass, who began playing basketball together as Lake Bluff grade schoolers, Titus was not thinking about the game until an upperclassman spotted him early in his freshman year and introduced him to LaScala.
“I went to tryouts and made the team,” Titus said. “It was fun. I like the pace of the game. You just keep going until the final siren.”
Titus adds a presence in the middle that will enable Durrett, Bass and Hayes to be a stronger outside threat next year than they were this season.
Add in players from the sophomore team, which finished as North Suburban Conference champions, and LaScala will have even more depth.
Durrett and Bass tasted a share of the league title a year ago and a losing campaign this season. They know what they want in the future.
“We know what we can be next year,” Bass said.