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Zion-Benton tops undermanned Mundelein
By Marty Maciaszek | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 2/9/2013 11:40 PM

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Quinn Pokora wanted to give Mundelein an energy boost as he came off the bench for the first time all season a couple of minutes into Saturday’s North Suburban Lake boys basketball game with visiting Zion-Benton.

The senior guard’s four 3-pointers and 14 first-quarter points were exactly the jolt the Mustangs needed a night after a disappointing loss at Libertyville.

What the Mustangs didn’t need was Pokora taking his game-high 23 points and five 3s to the bench to stay with 2:18 to play when he fouled out. Especially with leads of 17 points in the second quarter and 15 with 1:08 left in the third were about to be sliced to one.

And Pokora was powerless to do anything as Zion completed its second big comeback of the weekend with a 78-73 victory.

“That’s how it’s been all year — it’s exhausting,” Pokora said after shooting 5-for-7 behind the arc as he embraced the sixth-man role with Robert Knar’s return to the starting lineup. “We know how good we can be ... but it’s extremely frustrating to have games like (Friday) night.

“We just have to get it together and I think we will.”

Getting everyone together would be a big help to the Mustangs (12-11, 5-6) as they lost their third straight. Knar hit a pair of 3s and scored 7 points as he continued his return from a torn ACL in the summer by playing in brief bursts for the second time this weekend.

But the Mustangs were without 6-foot-7 senior swingman Sean O’Brien because of a bad chest cold that required a hospital visit Saturday. The missing links were painfully evident — particularly Pokora’s communication down the stretch — as they shot 2-for-18 from the field with four missed 3s and committed 5 turnovers in the fourth quarter.

In the first three quarters they committed only 9 turnovers and shot 50 percent from the field (22-for-44) and behind the arc (11-for-22). The Mustangs also got big boosts from senior Cliff Dunigan with 16 of his 20 points and junior reserve Derek Parola’s 8 points and two 3s en route to a 63-48 lead.

“You see we can play like that but we have to sustain it,” said Mundelein coach Dick Knar. “The last three games we haven’t sustained our intensity and we haven’t sustained our focus. When we are, we are good, but we have to have it for 32 minutes.”

Pokora came off the bench to hit his first four 3s to push Mundelein to a 35-18 lead 5:16 before halftime.

“Coach challenged us and I thought we did a great job of responding,” Pokora said after scoring 18 first-half points. “We played with a lot of energy and emotion and we were playing good ball.

“At the end of the third quarter we had good momentum, but in the fourth quarter we stopped talking and lost focus. And that’s a good team.”

Which the Zee-Bees (19-5, 9-3) showed by focusing on the inside after halftime — shooting 14-for-26 from the field and 17-for-22 on free throws — in their NSC Lake season finale. Six-2 junior Trenton Curry scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half to help 6-6 juniors Milik Yarbrough (22 points) and Greg Swane (12 points, 8 rebounds).

“Our intensity picked up in the second half,” Curry said after Z-B stayed a half-game behind Stevenson (20-4, 9-2) in the division.

“In the second half we played better defense, we rebounded better and we worked the ball inside more to get better shots,” said Z-B coach Don Kloth. “Mundelein was trapping Milik, and I thought Milik made very good decisions with the ball and didn’t try to force things.”

Yarbrough’s layup off a Dorsey Cadette inbound pass with 1:41 left put Z-B up 72-71 for its first lead since Yarbrough’s layup to start the game. Mundelein answered 11 seconds later when Chino Ebube (10 points, 12 rebounds), who missed his first 7 free throws, hit a pair for a 73-72 lead.

But Curry’s short turnaround at 1:09 and 4 straight free throws in the final 43 seconds put Zion in position to hope Mundelein finds that complete game Friday when it visits Stevenson.

“We can do some good things if we stay focused,” Dick Knar said. “But we have to be responsible for ourselves offensively and defensively in tight situations.”