Boys basketball: Zach Van Hook leads Lowell past Morton
By Brian Hedger Post-Tribune correspondent December 7, 2012 11:34PM
Lowell's Zach VanHook puts up a shot during a game against Morton on Friday, December 7th, in Lowell. | Scott R. Brandush~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 9, 2013 6:12AM
LOWELL — This time, Zach Van Hook and the Lowell Red Devils made sure there was no second-half collapse.
Van Hook led all scorers with 30 points and Lowell cruised to a 54-38 victory against winless Morton on Friday night. The Red Devils (1-4) picked up their first win, but the way they won was most important.
In two previous games, Lowell built up double-digit leads in the second half against Hanover Central and Gavit before eventually dropping both by close margins. Against Morton (0-5), the Red Devils built a 30-22 halftime lead and then outscored the Governors 14-5 in the third quarter before cruising to the win.
“What I was most proud of was the fact we finished, because we’d blown two pretty good-sized leads this year,” Lowell coach Nate Richie said. “We needed to figure out a way to not only maintain a lead, but finish the game. These guys did it tonight. They took a step and grew up.”
Van Hook led the way in that third by scoring nine points, grabbing three of his six rebounds and setting up Billy Barker with one of his four 3-pointers to give Lowell a 44-27 lead heading into the fourth.
“The most important thing in the second half was just taking care of the ball,” Van Hook said. “At the half, we just talked about finishing it off and keeping the lead. That’s what we did.”
Morton, led by 10 points from Travon Atkins, struggled with Lowell’s zone defense — including a six-minute scoreless drought in the first quarter that allowed the Red Devils to take an 11-5 lead. Morton then made its biggest offensive push midway through the second, after Rayan Elabed’s 3-pointer cut Lowell’s lead to just 16-10 with 4:49 left before halftime.
Van Hook scored six points in that quarter, but it was Barker who came up even bigger by knocking down all three of his 3-pointers and scoring 11 of his 14 points.
“My shot just felt really good after that first one,” Barker said. “It just got my confidence up.”
Lowell’s whole team felt the same way after it was over. The Red Devils out-rebounded Morton 34-21 and played stifling defense, but most importantly they never let the Govs back in the game.
“This team should have quite a bit of confidence,” Richie said. “We don’t have a lot of varsity experience, but we’ve got talent and kids who understand how to play the game. We’ve been dangerous in all the games we’ve played. Now, it’s just a matter of learning how to win games.”