Just about every time he steps on the basketball court, Milik Yarbrough is a difference-maker.
The 6-5 senior has an inside game that is virtually unstoppable at the high school level, and is developing an outside game that surely has college scouts drooling.
On Thursday at the Jacobs holiday tournament, his entire game was on display — 25 points, 12 rebounds, 5 assists — as the Zee-Bees (10-1) rolled past Marian Central 74-58 on the final day of pool play.
The Zee-Bees went 3-0 in their pool and will play powerful Larkin at 6 on Friday night in the semifinals. Larkin is a possible opponent for the Lake Zurich Sectional winner when the March Madness Class 4A playoffs get down to the Elite Eight supersectional round.
Zion led 57-48 after scoring the final bucket of the third quarter against the Hurricanes (5-6) and then closed the game nicely with an eight-point run to start the fourth. In the final frame, Zion was 5-of-6 from the foul line, outrebounded the Canes 13-3, and held them to 3-of-14 shooting.
Yarbrough’s a four-year varsity starter and has played 18 games in Jacobs’ gym but, so far, has no tourney championship plaque.
“We’ve been coming here since I was a freshman and we haven’t taken it home. This year we wanted to come in here, play our game, and bring home the championship,” he said.
He also knows that Friday’s opponent, Larkin, is 12-1 (its only loss was an 84-82 defeat to Morgan Park) and presents the Bees’ toughest challenge of the tourney.
“We don’t really care what the rankings say. We’re ranked too, and anybody can lose on any given day. We just have to play our game and win the rebounding battle, because we’re way bigger than them. We have to play physical, inside out, and do what we need to do to get the win.”
Against Marian, what the Bees got done was plenty. Besides Yarbrough, Zion got contributions from Trenton Curry (eight points, seven rebounds, four assists), point guard Maurice Young (six dimes), Fred Calvert (six points off the bench) and Jerome Davis (six points off the bench). Admiral Schofield’s 17 points were second-best on the team.
Veteran coach Don Kloth loved the way his bench contributed in this game as well as in all recent contests.
“We’ve had our good halves, and maybe some halves that could have been better, but we’ve been fairly consistent,” the coach said. “We’ve been playing about 10 kids each quarter and developing some depth.
“The way our team is, I think it’s important to have players we can count on on a regular basis. I think we’ve gotten to where we have a couple of post players who can come in.
“I’ve been pleased with our bench play. There have been some games where we’ve gotten momentum, and they’ve allowed us to keep it. They’ve had moments where they’ve extended leads. Our second group has played fairly well.”
Larkin presents all sorts of problems for Zion. The Bees’ loss this season was in overtime to an Evanston team that used a three-guard offense.
Larkin does that twice as well as Evanston.
“We have a big game against Larkin tomorrow,” said Schofield “We know they’re going to run. We have to be ready to defend them. I think we’ll come out on top, but we have to play team ball and continue to look for the shot inside. That’s what we’ve been working on, and then kicking it out to hit the outside shot when it’s open.
“We want to win the whole thing. Every time we step on the floor, we want to win as a team. Every possession, every rebound, every layup, we want to win.”
Marian Central, which went 0-3 in what would be called the “group of death” if this was World Cup soccer, got 17 points from sophomore guard Adam Pischke and 12 from junior guard Wyatt Lindell. Forward Matthew Ricchioto also had 12.
For the game, Zion shot 29-of-62 from the field and 11-of-16 from the stripe. Marian was 22-of-62, including 8-of-28 from distance.