ELMHURST – Lyons Township and Wheaton North played a tight game for 28 minutes, but the Lions found a finishing kick to pull away.
LT won 76-65 Thursday morning, closing the game on a 16-2 run, to advance in York's Jack Tosh Holiday Classic. Nick Traversa put the Falcons ahead 63-60 with a three-pointer with 3:58 remaining, but the Lions tightened up defensively and were 9-for-10 from the free throw line down the stretch.
"Our kids made some clutch free throws down the stretch, which took it from a four or five point game up to a 10 or 11 point game and helped seal the game," LT coach Tom Sloan said.
Jake Heggeland had 28 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Falcons. He was an efficient 11-for-15 from the field. Andrew Slivinski had 16 points, all coming in the first half.
Chris Hester led the Lions with 21 points. Matt Mrazek had 19 and Harrison Niego added 16.
The game was tied 40-40 at halftime. There were five lead changes in the second half and two ties.
"The difference in the game was rebounding," Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann said. "We gave up too many offensive rebounds and turnovers as well. Just based on those two things they got 17 extra possessions in a game.
"That being said, we still had a shot to win it. We just didn't execute really well the last three minutes of the game and didn't secure some big rebounds."
The Falcons were without starting guard Matt Biegalski, who watched on in crutches. Brackmann said Biegalski's return date is unknown, but he could miss another couple weeks due to an ankle sprain.
LT will play Conant in the second round Friday at 3:30 p.m. The Falcons will play Rolling Meadows at 9 a.m.
"I think we have a pretty good team and we played a Wheaton North team there that I think they're pretty good also," Sloan said. "That's a pretty tough first round match up for either team. You win and now you're allegedly playing better teams down the road. We're going to see good competition so it's a week of really good practice against really good opponents."