Libertyville’s Drew Peterson plays the hero, beats Conant in overtime

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Libertyville’s Drew Peterson (23) hits a three as time expires in overtime to give the Wildcats a come-from-behind 59-56 victory over Conant, March 2, 2018. | Allen Cunningham/ For the Sun-Times

There was never any hint of hesitation or self-doubt. Libertyville senior Drew Peterson had the ball in his hands as the final seconds ticked away in overtime. He was blanketed by a Conant defender, but he didn’t care.

“I was looking to get to the hoop but they were pressuring pretty good and I couldn’t get around them,” Peterson said. “I just had to find my spot. I had to shoot it. As long as I could get it over him I knew I had a chance of making it.”

Peterson found his spot and launched the game-winning three-pointer just before the buzzer sounded.

“I’m probably going to realize how huge that was tomorrow morning,” Peterson said. “The adrenaline is pumping so much still, it is awesome.”

The shot gave the Wildcats a 59-56 win in overtime against Conant in the Class 4A Deerfield regional final.

“We haven’t won a regional in 15 years at Libertyville, this is crazy,” Peterson said. “I haven’t made a game-winning shot before. Just free throws. I finally got one to fall in the most important game of the season.”

Libertyville was dreadful in the first half. The Wildcats only made three baskets in the first two quarters and trailed 22-9.

“All year we’ve had games where we struggled in stretches,” Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said. “There have been games where we couldn’t come back from that. But these guys don’t stop fighting. Our leaders, [Peterson, Josh Steinhaus and Chase Eyre] got everyone relaxed and these guys just clawed back.”

Steinhaus made three three-pointers in the third quarter to give the Wildcats (19-9) some life. Then the fourth quarter arrived at Peterson absolutely dominated. The 6-6 uncommitted senior scored 20 consecutive points to open the quarter. Then Steinhaus drained a three with 40 seconds left in regulation to tie the score at 50.

“I knew I wasn’t aggressive enough, that I was sitting in the paint too much,” Peterson said. “I moved to point guard and started taking the ball down. I just kept firing and the shots were falling.”

Ryan Davis, Conant’s star big man, fouled out with 1:38 to play. Cougars guard Ben Schols fouled out earlier in the quarter.

Without those two on the court Conant (21-8) looked lost. Senior Raj Mattal solidified things in the overtime by getting to the line regularly but the Cougars didn’t manage a single basket after Davis left the game.

Davis finished with 18 points and six rebounds. Mattal added 18 points and nine rebounds.

Peterson scored 30 and Steinhaus added 21, he was 7-for-17 from three-point range.

“I always rely on Drew in the fourth, we all do,” Steinhaus said. “He just kept saying that we weren’t losing the game. When he says that the rest of the team believes it.”

Libertyville had a chance to win it in regulation, but Steinhaus missed a shot in the lane.

“We weren’t able to get the ball into Drew’s hands at the end of regulation and I wasn’t happy about that,” Zyrkowski said. “We didn’t make that mistake in overtime. We got it to him and Drew Peterson said he didn’t want his season to end.”

Libertyville will face Lake Zurich, the sectional hosts, in the sectional semifinals on Tuesday.

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