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Lakes' Blain deals Ridgewood some pain
By Patricia Babcock McGraw | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/8/2012 12:22 AM

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"Ice Ice Baby."

Who could blame Lakes senior guard Tanner Blain if he has that popular Vanilla Ice song from the 1980s stuck in his head.

It might be his mantra now. for all we know.

After all, it was the ice, baby, that put Blain on the court in the first place Wednesday night. And by extension, it was the ice, baby, that helped him heat up from 3-point land.

Just a few days ago, Blain wasn't sure he'd be able to play much, if at all, in the Eagles' Class 3A sectional semifinal against Ridgewood at Grayslake Central. He tweaked up his left knee pretty severely Friday in Lakes' regional championship win over Carmel.

"I came down on it wrong and I didn't know what was going to happen for this game because it was hurting all weekend," Blain said. "I was icing all weekend, I was praying all weekend and (Tuesday) night was the first night I practiced since I tweaked it and it hurt pretty bad.

"But then I iced again all night last night and all day long before the game today. I got a new knee brace and - I was all good."

Blain was more than good. He was ridiculously good in leading third-seeded Lakes to an impressive 75-60 victory over No. 2 Ridgewood that opens the door for a shot at top-seeded North Chicago in Friday's sectional championship game.

Bum knee or not, Blain torched the nets and Ridgewood from 3-point range, especially early on. He finished with 20 points on a career-high 6-of-7 three-pointers. He hit all four of his 3-point attempts in the first quarter and was 5-for-5 at halftime.

Blain hit his sixth attempt just after the break and then finally missed one later in the third quarter.

"My shot felt a little different, but I still felt good," Blain said. "We came out firing and that's exactly what we needed to do because this (Ridgewood) team, they can get back into a game fast with all the three-point shooters they have. We needed to get out to a big lead."

Lakes, which moves to 20-10 to secure just its second 20-win season in school history, shot out to a 20-12 first-quarter lead thanks to Blain's 12 points. The Eagles then took a 36-23 lead into the locker room at halftime thanks to a 9-2 run to finish the second quarter.

The Eagles' first basket of the third quarter was another Blain three-pointer.

"I was yelling 'Off,'" Blain chuckled. "But it went in."

Blain's sixth straight make from downtown started a 15-7 run that put the Eagles up by 21 points and firmly in control for good.

"I thought we played very hard from the opening tip. We were ready to go and motivated," said Lakes coach Chris Snyder, who lead his team to the first regional title in program history last weekend. "We saw a really good effort on both ends of the floor, especially in that second quarter and into the third where we were able to extend our lead.

"Tanner came out and really got us going with his threes. The kids fed off that and it gave us some more bounce in our step. We've seen Tanner go off like that in practice when he just gets hot. He's pretty tough to stop out there. We were glad he was able to play. He's a senior and you knew he wasn't going to sit this one out."

Lakes, which also got double-figures out of guards Jay-Jay Elvir (14 points) and Direll Clark (14 points) and forward Justin Bergeron (10 points), went up by as many as 23 points in the fourth quarter. But Ridgewood turned up the defensive pressure with its full-court press and put together a mini run.

The Rebels forced 10 fourth-quarter Lakes turnovers and got to within 13 points, but the threat was never too serious. Igor Cirkovic and Anthony Mroz led the way for Ridgewood with 12 and 11 points respectively and both scored a majority of their points in the second half.

"We let (Ridgewood) back in a little bit and we had wanted to keep (the intensity) up at the end of the game because we want to keep things rolling for Friday against North Chicago," Blain said. "We're playing good now. We had never won a regional title before and we did that and we want to (go further). We're trying to set the tone for everyone in this program (into the future). It's my senior year, I want to do it. Let's do it."