Boys basketball: Eli Bach’s layup with 2.5 seconds left gives Lincoln-Way West win over Lockport

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LOCKPORT – With the game on the line, Lincoln-Way West turned to what worked.

Eli Bach scored on a layup with 2.5 seconds to play and the Warriors continued their recent resurgence with a 54-52 victory over host Lockport in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover on Friday night.

Bach banged in a game-high 20 points and added six rebounds as Lincoln-Way West (5-4) got its first win over the Porters in many years.

“It wasn’t just me, it was Jacob Willis handling the ball and other guys stepping up and hitting big shots too,” Bach said. “But at the end, I knew I had a little bit of a size advantage over the guy who was guarding me. Even when I don’t have the size advantage, I know what to do.

“I was able to get the ball in the right side of the lane and being right-handed, that’s my shot there.”

Anthony Kosi hit a 3-pointer from the right side with 28 seconds to play to cap a 7-0 run for Lockport (3-5) and tie the game at 52-52. Kosi (seven rebounds) and fellow junior Collin Miller each had 14 points to pace the Porters.

But following a timeout, the Warriors calmly looked to get the ball to Bach on the block and the 6-foot-2 senior forward easily scored.

“I like Eli Bach in that situation,” Lincoln-Way West coach Tanner Mitchell said. “We ran a little curl play for him and that was a good play for us.”

Lockport called a time out and nearly had a good play of its own. Inbounding the ball from the opposite baseline, the Porters used a pair of quick passes and got the ball to Kosi on the left wing. He launched a 28-footer at the buzzer but the shot was just off the rim.

“I’ve been on the varsity four years and this is the first time we’ve beat Lockport,” Bach said. “We just have to keep playing as a team, keep playing hard.”

The Warriors jumped out to an 8-0 advantage and maintained the lead the entire first half. It was 25-19 at halftime. But Lockport opened the second half on an 11-3 burst and took its first lead of the game at 30-28 on a pair of free throws by Kosi. That was the first of seven lead changes the rest of the quarter as the Porters led 39-37 after three.

Josh Ahrens scored on a layup midway through the fourth quarter to give the Porters their last lead at 45-43. Lincoln-Way West, however, scored the next nine points. Junior guard Max Gabriel (14 points) hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the same spot on the left wing in 30 seconds to highlight the 9-0 spurt. Willis, a senior guard, capped it on a layup with 2:09 to play for a 52-45 lead.

“We didn’t play well in the third quarter and it just came down to who can make plays,” Mitchell said. “Max Gabriel hit two huge 3-pointers for us. Those were big, big ones. This is my first win over Lockport in my three years as head coach here and it’s always nice to get an SWSC crossover win against a Blue Division team.”

Jacob Bereza, a senior forward, finished with 13 points and seven boards for the Warriors.

“Our philosophy on defense is that you have to cut the head of the snake, and we didn’t cut the head of the snake,” Lockport coach Dave Wilson said. “We let Eli Bach light us up for 20. Lincoln-Way West is very scrappy and athletic.

“It’s taken us a little bit to see what we’re good at, what the makeup of this team is. We were 7-of-14 on free throws tonight and are only 54 percent from the line for the season. We’re also 28 percent on 3-pointers and average 22 turnovers per game. But we have a lot of juniors with no previous varsity experience.”

The Warriors, who haven’t had a winning season since finishing second in the state in Class 3A in 2016, have started 5-4 for the second straight season. They will look to continue their winning ways when they travel across town to face Lincoln-Way Central next Tuesday.

“We’re trying to get the ball in the right direction,” said Mitchell, whose team defeated Addison Trail 62-55 on Wednesday. “It’s good to get a couple of wins on the road. We had some football players who missed the first couple of weeks of the season. So it’s nice to have them get their basketball legs back and we put the ball in the hands of our two senior captains, Eli Bach and Jacob Bereza.”