Niklas Polonowski drives around Glenbard West’s Bobby Durkin in the first half of a West Suburban Silver game on Jan. 28. Polonowski led Lyons with 20 points. Photo by Steve Metsch
Lyons rally falls short against unbeaten Glenbard West
By Steve Metsch
The third time was not the charm.
Lyons, which had lost games by 37 and 32 points to Glenbard West earlier this season, headed into their third matchup of the season hoping to break through against the unbeaten Hilltoppers.
With a frenzied, near-capacity home crowd behind them, the Lions mounted a furious rally that made it a two-point game 4:07 to play, but West proved to be too much and held on for a 62-50 victory in a West Suburban Silver game on Jan. 28 in La Grange.
Paced by 6-foot-6 junior Niklas Polonowski, who sank three of his six 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, Lyons had come back from a 10-point deficit after three quarters. When senior Tavari Johnson nailed a five-footer to cap a 14-6 Lions’ run, the Hilltoppers’ lead had been cut to 52-50.
However, West (23-0) demonstrated why it is the AP’s top-ranked Class 4A team in Illinois by going on a 10-0 run to close out the game.
Despite the outcome, Coach Tom Sloan was proud of his team’s effort.
“Four minutes left, a two-point game, if you told me that before the game started I’d sign up for that every time,” Sloan said. “I’d like to play them maybe when they don’t make seven 3s in the first half.”
In the end, Lyons failed to execute when it had to against the Hilltoppers’ swarming defense.
“We had to make the right pass,” Sloan said. “We had to catch the ball, and if you had an open look, knock it in if you had the shot.”
Polonowski led Lyons with 20 points.
“Nik was shooting it like crazy,” Sloan said. “Nik has played well all three times we played [West]. He’s a big perimeter kid.”
Polonowski played in international competition over the summer for the Danish National Team in July and August.
“So Nik is not afraid of the moment,” Sloan said.
Polonowski’s skills and experience will hopefully bode well for the Lions (18-4) come the postseason. Three of their four losses have been to West.
Johnson scored 14 for Lyons. The only other Lions who scored were seniors Billy Bach and Aidan Sullivan, with eight points each.
Lyons jumped to the early 18-11 lead with six three-pointers in the first quarter, two each by Bach and Sullivan. But West rallied behind 6-foot-6 senior Caden Pierce, who made three treys in the first quarter to help the Hilltoppers to a 21-20 after one.
Pierce, who has signed to play at Princeton next season, led all scorers with 25 points. Gonzaga-bound 6-foot-11 senior Brendan Huff scored 15 for the Hilltoppers.
An ice-cold second quarter didn’t help Lyons, which was outscored 16-6.
Huff had a big play with 3:46 left in the game. He scored and was fouled, and made the free throw to give West a 55-50 lead.
This game was much closer than the previous two, a 71-34 Hilltoppers’ win on Dec. 3 and a 60-28 victory in the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament title game at York on Dec. 31.
“It showed a tremendous amount of improvement,’ Sloan said. “I’m happy for our guys, but at the same time, there are areas where we can play better.”
For the first time in nearly two years, the big barn on Brainard was filled to near capacity.
“I was an outstanding atmosphere,” Sloan said. “The kids were in heaven. It was so exciting for them.”