RECAP: HP 44, VH 33
They were a tag team during the game.
Twice, Ziv Tal accepted crisp bounce passes from Noah Shutan and converted backdoor layups in Highland Park’s 44-33 victory over host Vernon Hills on Dec. 15.
And then, after the game, in a post game interview outside their locker room, the two HP seniors teamed up to answer questions from sportswriters and immediately started finishing each other’s sentences.
“That [9-0 run to start the second half] certainly helps,” said Shutan.
“But credit them [Vernon Hills], they didn’t allow the game to get away from them [after the 9-0 run],” Tal said. “We had to keep grinding.”
Added Shutan: “And we’re a team that knows how to grind it out.”
And, on the backdoor plays, the tight guarding on Tal — and the need to be creative and play old-school basketball.
“[Opposing teams] don’t want Ziv to get the basketball,” said Shutan.
“Those backdoor plays,” Tal chipped in, “are go-to plays for us.”
The Cougars (2-7, 0-3), like most opponents, tried to make stopping Tal a priority.
But, after a scoreless first quarter, Tal ended up leading all scorers with 15 points to go along with four rebounds and two steals.
His signature plays included an off-balanced, fall-to-the-floor put-back in the paint early in the second quarter and a nifty dancing-like drive down the lane in the fourth quarter.
“Ziv makes the game easier for rest of our players,” said HP head coach Paul Harris. “But teams can’t just focus on him.”
Shutan also had a scoreless first frame before completing his night with six points, five assists, five steals and three rebounds.
“Noah is looking to score more,” said Harris. “He had a nice pull-up jumper [in the second quarter].”
Senior guard Danny Michelon got the Giants (4-4, 3-0) off to good start by scoring the game’s first five points. He added five points in the third quarter to finish in double figures (10).
Michelon also was part of a tag team. He was assisted by senior Tyler Gussis of eight of his points.
Gussis wound up with two points, three rebounds and four assists.
Seniors Ethan Goldberg and Lucas Fleisher were sparks off the bench. Goldberg had four points and four rebounds. Fleisher hit a key three-pointer earlier in the fourth quarter to finish with five points.
HP’s Game Balls: Ziv Tal (Sr., G), Noah Shutan (Sr., G)
Vernon Hill’s Game Balls: Payton Foster (Sr., C), Luke Perlin (Sr., G)
HP’s Co-Players of the Game: Tal, Shutan
HP’s Stat Leaders:
— Tal (15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals)
— Shutan (6 points, 5 assists, 5 steals, 3 rebounds)
— Daniel Michelon (10 points, 2 three-pointers)
— Tyler Gussi (2 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists)
— Lucas Fleisher (5 points)
— Ethan Goldberg (4 points, 4 rebounds)
VH’s Stat Leaders:
— Foster (10 points)
— Perlin (9 points)
HP’s Unsung Hero: Goldberg
Notable: With the win, Highland Park extended its win streak to four games. The Giants are making their 0-4 start — in the St. Viator Tournament — a distant memory. They will now compete in the York Tournament, leading off with Sandburg on Dec. 26.
— “I knew that the 0-4 start wasn’t going to derail us. Our guys have invested so much.” — HP head coach Paul Harris.
— “We want to be a team that plays hard and plays the game the right way. And stay even-keeled.” — Harris.