For 30 minutes Friday night, Libertyville and Lake Forest's boys' basketball teams were locked in one of those good-old North Suburban Conference Lake Division battles.
And although the stakes weren't particularly high, aside from bragging rights and postseason preparation for both squads, the see-saw nature of the contest included eight lead changes and more than plenty of drama.
In the end, the Wildcats hung on for a 51-44 road win, spoiling the Scouts' senior night in front of a largecrowd at Lake Forest High School. The victory also allowed Libertyville (10-14 overall, 4-8 NSC Lake Division) to finish the season a game ahead of their conference foes in the Lake Division standings.
The biggest lead for either team held was just five points all game long, until an exciting final two minutes. Lake Forest junior guard Thomas Durrett's layup with 1:41 to play gave the Scouts a 42-41 lead, but that momentum, and lead, quickly vanished.
6-foot-4 Libertyville guard Griffin Pils (seven points) was fouled after charging hard to the basket with 1:26 remaining, then promptly sank two free throws to give the Wildcats a 43-42 lead, which they held onto for good.
From that point on, the story was Libertyville's smothering defense.The Wildcats employed a full-court press defense on the ensuing Lake Forest in-bounds pass, and forced a turnover with 1:25 to play. Libertyville senior guard Ryan Barth (game-high 22 points) then converted a pair of free throws after bring fouled with 45 seconds left, giving the Wildcats a three point advantage.
Libertyville forced another errant Lake Forest pass resulting in a turnover with 41 seconds remaining, followed by two more successful Barth free throws, to extend their lead to five, 47-42.
The Wildcats put the game away for good moments later when they forced their third turnover in just over a minute, thanks to a steal by Anthony Mack with 35 seconds left.
Libertyville shot 12-for-13 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, which included a perfect 8-for-8 mark from the stripe in the game's final 1:26. Ellis Matthews (11 points) also finished in double-figures for the Wildcats.
Lake Forest (10-15, 3-9 NSC Lake) shot 41.8 percent (18-for-43) from the field, while Libertyville finished 11-for-30 (36.6 percent).
The Wildcats play at Jacobs tonight at 7 p.m., and host Wauconda Feb. 22, before beginning the IHSA Class 4A Regional Playoffs Feb. 28 against Lake Zurich at 6 p.m. in Palatine.