Humbled a few days earlier by Providence-St. Mel, North Chicago received a surprising threat upon its return to conference play.
Leading Lakes by just two with less than seven minutes to play, the No. 11 Warhawks turned it into overdrive and cruised to a 78-61 victory Wednesday night in North Chicago.
Kurt Hall had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Jarrod Coleman added 10 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots as North Chicago (8-1, 3-0) used its size advantage to stay afloat before putting their brand of controlled chaos into action.
"We were playing their game, not our game," Hall, a 6-foot-6 junior, said. "We weren't doing what we do best, but we wound up coming back together."
The victory puts North Chicago squarely in the driver's seat in the North Suburban Prairie, but after consecutive trips downstate, another conference title means little to a team whose PA announcer talks about "The Road to Peoria" in December.
Though coach Gerald Coleman is not happy with his team's energy level of late, he doesn't deny it's bigger, deeper and potentially better than his past teams.
Juniors JayQuan McCloud and Javairius Amos-Mays are among the better guard tandems in Illinois, and transfers Emmanuel January (Waukegan) and Tim Dixon (Marshall) pack a punch off the bench against Lakes (7-3, 3-1).
January scored seven of his 16 points in the fourth quarter, and Dixon had both of his at the start of North Chicago's decisive run.
"Every time we went up eight, 10 points I did some subbing because I believe in them and I need to see some other guys," Coleman said. "And they came through."
Player of the game: Kurt Hall, North Chicago, 17 points, 10 rebounds.
Key performers: North Chicago — Jarrod Coleman 10 points, 13 rebounds, 4 blocks; Javairius Amos-Mays, 13 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists. Lakes — Andrew Spencer, 16 points.