Lane falters late, falls to Downers Grove North 60-53 in Regional Semifinal


Mara Mellits

Lane’s Sean Molloy drives to the basket.

By Theo Gary, Managing Editor

Well, it’s over — 9th seeded Lane Tech Boys Basketball (19-10) had their season come to end Wednesday night against the 7th seeded Downers Grove North Trojans (16-9) in a Regional Semifinal game at Whitney Young High School. The game went from comfortable to close, and Lane just couldn’t finish down the stretch, falling 60-53.

The game started even, with Lane’s Sean Molloy and the massive 6’7” George Walkow for Downers Grove North trading baskets inside. Walkow, bigger and stronger than any Lane player, gathered rebounds and finished putbacks. Along with his backup Jake Reimer, he forced Lane to change the way they defend. 

“We changed our coverages with ball screens,” Head Coach Nicholas LoGalbo said postgame. “We knew that they saw us coming in, playing in one way and we changed our coverage. And I thought that negated the bigs.”

Despite the disadvantage down low, Lane shot exceptionally well in the first half, hitting six threes. 

The first of those came from Stephen Goonan, off an assist from Ethan Grunebaum. Following his assist, Grunebaum stripped the smaller Downers Grove North guard Jack Stanton and scored in transition.  

As usual, Lane pressed off the made basket. Molloy stole the ball from the Trojans’ other guard, Jack Thulin, in the ensuing frenzy, but Lane couldn’t score.   

A barrage of threes punctuated the end of the first quarter. Owen Thulin hit one for the Trojans, then Lane’s Will Rosenkrantz got hot, burying a three from the corner and curling off a screen at the top of the key for another.

Behind the hot three-point shooting, Lane led 15-10 to end the first quarter. 

To start the second, Molloy drove the lane and hit an athletic and-one layup. Then, Joseph Perona stole an inbounds pass.  

Downers Grove North countered the Lane mini-run with one of their own when Jacob Bozeman, who was impressive all night, stole the ball, and had his missed transition layup outback by Max Haac. Off a later inbounds, Wolkow tapped the ball into the net. Later, Grunebaum fouled Thulin, who hit one of two free throws.

Bozeman, the player who started the run, came out of nowhere.   

“[Bozeman] wasn’t really one of the guys we emphasized,” Molloy said via text. “We more so focused on their shooters and taking them out of their sets. I think he stepped up for them when we took them out of their sets and made some big plays.” 

But after that, it was Shaheed Solebo time. He buried a three, and when the defense stepped out to defend his shooting, he drove the lane, assisting on subsequent Goonan and Grunebaum threes, propelling Lane to a 32-23 halftime lead.  

Good defense was the key to building that lead, according to LoGalbo.

“Early, we turned our defense into offense, and we didn’t really do that very well in the second half,” he said.

Downers Grove North scraped by in the first half, largely due to the high foul discrepancy. At one point in the second quarter, Lane had accrued seven fouls while the Trojans only had three. 

“I wish I knew [why we fouled],” LoGalbo said. “That was part of the game plan. We talked about not fouling, because more than half of their points early [were from fouls]. I think they had nine free throws in the first half.”    

The issue, for Lane at least, was that the first half lead didn’t last. Early in the third quarter, Stanton buried a three, then Bozeman drove for a layup and made a mid-range jumper. 

Once the Trojans were able to close the gap, the game became a duel: Molloy vs. everybody else. Answering Bozeman’s midrange jumper with one of his own, he tried to keep pace with the Trojan’s three-point barrage. On a run-out, instead of attempting a contested layup, Stanton passed to a sprinting Thulin, who buried the shot. Molloy then answered a Kramper corner three with one of his own. However, when Stanton made a top-of-the-key three Molloy couldn’t answer, ending the dual.

According to Molloy, the Trojans’ comeback came down to halftime adjustments.

“I think in the first half we blew up most of their sets, but then they made some adjustments at halftime and they started getting the open threes that they wanted and hit them,” Molloy said. 

At the end of the third quarter, the game got sloppy. Perona threw a pass straight to Bozeman who took off down the floor and ran directly into Grunebaum, who forced a charge. Lane’s press then forced turnover, which Hayden Matthews cashed in for a quarter-ending three. 

Lane was up, just barely, 45-44.

A tense fourth quarter started with a Lucas Basile score on a post-up of Wolkow. Lane maintained a three point lead until Stanton hit another three. Things went from bad to worse for Lane when Basile airballed an open midrange shot and fouled a Trojans player, who hit his free throws. Solebo answered, stripping a Trojan and putting home a thunderous one-handed dunk to tie the game at 47.   

From there, the Trojans began to pull away. Stanton drove baseline and passed to Kramper for a three. Molloy answered with an athletic spinning-and-one drive. Downers Grove North knocked the ball over out-of-bounds, and Lane had their chance to take the lead. 

Lane called a timeout. They drew up the play. Grunebaum curled around the screen, caught the ball… and airballed. On the next possession Lane fouled Wolkow, who missed one of his two free throws, keeping the Trojans’ lead at two, 53-51. 

Molloy, who played a fantastic game, tied the game at 53 with an elbow jumper. Lane never scored again.  

The fouls showed up again at the end of the game. Grunebaum fouled Thulin; then on the next possession, Lane fouled Walkow as he came down for a rebound. Max Haack, who came off the bench, ultimately knocked down the final free throws, going four for four on his two trips to the line. 

The state playoff loss, however, did not dampen any optimism LoGalbo has for the future.

“We’ve been continuing to grow this program,” he said. “We have a lot of great young pieces. We’re expecting our juniors and Shaheed [Solebo], our sophomore, to step up. And we had a great sophomore class and looking forward to those guys being ready to go.”