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'Bad luck' cuts Indians short of goals after impressive two-year stretch

Published: Friday, March 8, 2013 9:32 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Bill Ackerman – backerman@shawmedia.com)
Lemont's Juozas Balciunas shoots a layup against Bolingbrook during their regional semifinal game Feb. 27 in Batavia.

LEMONT — Even with a final record of 23-4, not reaching its lofty expectations of a conference title and deep playoff run put a damper on Lemont's 2012-13 boys basketball season.

But that wasn't the worst part; the biggest disappointment came in not having a full deck to play with when it mattered most.

When Joey Hehir broke his hand in the team's final non-conference game against Glenbard South Feb. 19, the Indians not only lost a double-digit scorer but also the team's most athletic player and emotional leader.

His presence on the court was truly missed in the team's 70-60 loss to Hillcrest which denied Lemont a share of the South Suburban Blue title and the 71-63 defeat at the hands of Bolingbrook in the opening round of the Class 4A playoffs.

"Our goals were interrupted by bad luck," said Lemont coach Rick Runaas. "We battled bad breaks all year. At the end, it was a combination of two good teams we played and being a little shorthanded which caused our downfall.

"Looking back, you are not so upset you lost, you are upset because you feel like you didn't have a fair chance. It's one of those things we'd like to give it a shot with Joey in there and see what we would have done."

The regional semifinal loss marked the last game in an Indians' uniform for a strong senior class, including the team's leading scorer Juozas Balciunas as well as Hehir, Martynas Einikis, Jack Shereck, Ed Masiulionis and Erick Rydberg.

"I've got to go back and do some research," the coach said. "The last two years, these guys have won 23 and 25 games. To win 48 games over two years of varsity basketball, I don't know for sure but it might be the best two-year run in Lemont history.

"They have a good combination of talent to begin with — you don't want to forget that they are good basketball players. But it's also the coachability and the likeability of the kids. They are tough and stubborn but when the time is right, they know when to listen. They are just good guys."

Lemont will return second-leading scorer Mike Wisz to the fold next winter, along with center Jake Terrazas, but will have a lot of minutes and production to replace.

"We will be a lot smaller as a team next year," Runaas said, "and that doesn't bode well because we were not particularly big this year. We might have to open up the floor and find different ways to get Wisz shots.

"A ton of minutes need to be picked up by the returning varsity guys and our sophomores coming up. That's the challenge. It's the responsibility of the players to go and become better players and it's the responsiblity of the coaching staff to go and prepare. Hopefully both meet that challenge."

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