Highland Park High School’s boys basketball team enjoyed a big and Tal night.
Translation: HP’s Giants got a big night (30 points, 6 rebounds, 6 steals) from senior guard Ziv Tal in their 72-59 defeat of the visiting Maine West Warriors on Dec. 1.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Tal, fittingly, scored the first two points in the first boys varsity basketball game in HP’s new gym.
The result of the Central Suburban League North opener left each squad with a 1-4 overall record.
“Great atmosphere, fun atmosphere,” Giants coach Paul Harris said. “The guys are always excited about playing in their first home game each season. But there was a little more excitement tonight, with this being the night we opened our new gym. Our student section was great. Our parents were great, and we had a lot of support from alumni here.
“It was a special night,” he added.
Tal poured in 21 first-half points (14 in the second quarter) and came up two points short of matching the career high (32 points) he achieved twice last winter (once vs. Maine West, once vs. Maine East).
“Crazy,” Tal said of the sustained din generated by the home crowd. “How great was our crowd? I’d like to thank our fans for the support they gave us tonight.”
HP led 12-10 after one quarter and hit Maine West with a 13-2 run in the first half of the second frame; Tal netted nine points in the stretch, including six straight in 18 seconds via a ‘3’ ball, a ‘2’ ball and a free throw.
The Giants owned a 37-23 lead at the break but had to weather West’s 18-10 advantage in the third quarter.
“Maine West picked up the tempo in the third quarter and put a lot of pressure on us,” Harris said. “I have to give a lot of credit to my assistants, Ross [Deutsch] and Brian [Lukens], because both gave me good advice on changing things up after that third quarter.”
Less than a minute after Tal connected for his fourth and final trey of the night, at 6:48 of the fourth quarter, he whipped an assist to senior guard Noah Shutan (13 points). Twenty-nine seconds later, Tal found senior guard/forward Tyler Gussis (10 points), whose ensuing bucket put the Giants up 58-45.
Gussis tallied eight of his points in the fourth quarter.
HP senior guard Daniel Michelon and senior guard/forward Jonny Koenig finished with nine points apiece. Michelon thrilled the home spectators at the 58-second mark of the third quarter, when his crossover dribble flummoxed the man defending him. The Warrior reeled straight backward, and Michelon — with plenty of space to elevate, with the fallen foe scrambling to return to his feet — calmly drilled a three-pointer.
HP’s fans erupted.
“That the was the loudest the crowd got tonight,” Tal said.
In a critical sequence moments earlier, Giants senior guard Lucas Fleisher kept a possession alive by diving for a loose ball and tapping it to an open teammate near midcourt. Maine West had produced a 7-0 run and trailed only 44-38 before the hustle play.
The 5-11 Michelon finished with six rebounds, and Giants senior forward Ethan Goldberg grabbed four.