They took the mask off of big Justin Schneider, and boy, did that pay off handsomely for the Lakes Eagles on Friday night.
Returning to the Lakes lineup following a broken nose, Schneider dominated the post on both sides the ball at Vernon Hills. His double double (19 points, 15 rebounds) helped the Eagles to move up a game in the Prairie Division standings of the North Suburban Conference.
Schneider's teammate Justin Bergeron chipped in 23 points as Lakes won on the road 73-66.
"I had a couple of inches on them and used my height to my advantage," Schneider said. "This is a big win for us. Win you are in, and lose you are out."
The home-standing Cougars (9-7, 4-2) made several runs at the guests but could never pull ahead in this contest.
"Give them a lot of credit,'' said Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty. "They were all over the offensive glass."
Lakes (11-6, 5-1) charged right ahead from the opening tip. Direll Clark's steal and bucket made it quickly 6-0. Of course Schneider recalled it was indeed Clark who was responsible for Schneider's broken nose. The senior wasn't mad at his guard.
"We really get after it in practice," he said.
The Eagles were up 15-8 after one quarter and that relaxed Lakes coach Chris Snyder. He was worried about the Vernon Hills shooters coming into this contest.
"This is a good win for us," Snyder said. "They have so many shooters here. They can flat out fill it up."
An example of that crisp shooting came as the fourth quarter opened. Lakes had extended its lead to 50-38 entering the final quarter. That's when junior guard Nate Rathod made his first 3-pointer of the night. Twenty seconds after that shot landed, teammate Darren Hoveydai (22 points) matched that 3-pointer with one of his own. The 12-point Lakes lead had been cut in half.
Again the Eagles had an answer for this rally. A Schneider move inside and a long 3-pointer from Tanner Blain (9 points) restored order for the home team.
The third quarter belonged to the 6-foot-8 Schneider. His hook shot opened the Eagles scoring in the third quarter. He was aggressive on the offensive boards and earned 3 trips to the free throw line.
The Cougars also had some players come back slowly from illness. Most prominent was Hovyedai, who had battled sickness the last week. McCarty could tell his star shooter wasn't totally back in shape. This senior had only 2 free throws to until late in the second quarter. And then he began to light it up.
His personal 7-point run ended with a 3-pointer and pulled the Cougars with a basket at 26-24.
Hoveydai had help in the scoring department from MJ Crowley who found the range on three 3-pointers. He finished with 12 points. Jarrett Wood was aggressive around the basket and collected 10 points.
Lakes had help from Clark, who notched 11 points.