By Matt Harness
Here’s a friendly reminder: Next time Maine South and New Trier play a boys basketball game, drop everything and go.
Here’s another tip: Once you’re there, don’t leave your seat.
For the second time this season, Maine South got the better of New Trier, this time earning a 49-46 overtime win Friday at Gates Gym to capture the outright CSL South championship. It was the seventh time in 10 meetings, the game was decided by one possession.
“It’s not good for me,” said a relieved Maine South coach Tony Lavorato of all the close games, including his team’s 47-45 OT win over the Trevians on Jan. 11. “I’m a wreck.”
The 19th-ranked Hawks led by as many as nine in the second half and then trailed by four with 3:08 to go in the fourth quarter.
Maine South (25-3, 9-1) hit four free throws in the final three minutes to send the game into OT before junior guard Andrew Palucki and senior forward John Solari scored the first two baskets of extra time to send the Hawks to their 14th consecutive victory.
“We just came together,” said Palucki, who finished with 11 points. “We told each other ‘We got this.’ We didn’t ever panic or freak out.”
New Trier (23-5, 8-2) raced out to a 13-2 lead in the first quarter behind a three-pointer and long jumper by senior guard Steven Cook. The Hawks owned the second quarter to lead 25-23 at the half. The two teams went into the fourth tied 37-all.
A pivotal moment came during a two-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter with New Trier up 43-39. That’s when New Trier senior point guard Reid Berman, who played sick, was whistled twice and fouled out with 1:02 left in regulation.
New Trier coach Scott Fricke was proud of how his players responded to the big personnel loss.
“Those were huge calls that didn’t go in our favor,” said Fricke, whose team snapped a 10-game win streak. “But we persevered and and still had a chance to win the game. It truly was a game of inches.”
New Trier senior guard Stas Banas led all scorers with 13 points. Cook, who spent less than one minute on the bench, finished with 10 points and eight blocked shots. Solari scored a team-best 12 points and secured the game’s final rebound. Palucki contributed 11 points.
Maine South won its first league title since the 1998-99 season when the Hawks played in the CSL North.
“We showed great poise and perseverance in a hostile environment, especially when things didn’t go our ways at times,” Lavorato said. “We always stayed together.”