Palucki's Last-Second Layup Stuns Trevians At Home
Maine South's zone held Connor Boehm in check as the Hawks derailed New Trier's chances at a conference title.
After making only one of two free throws to keep Maine South ahead by only two points, Matt Palucki knew he had to keep his head in the game.
His time would come only seconds later. After Connor Boehm knocked down two clutch free throws with 6.4 seconds remaining to tie the game at 39-39, Maine South (20-8, 6-4 CSL South) called timeout to set up the last play.
Maine South coach Tony Lavorato put the ball in the hands of point guard Tony Albano, who threw a lob pass inside to Palucki. The Hawks’ 6-foot-7 forward, who had been the go-to guy for Maine South all year, finished with an easy layup and the Hawks had their first victory at New Trier (13-11, 6-4 CSL South) in 14 years.
“You put it in your best ball-handler’s hands, you’ve got a really good shooter and then you’ve got Palucki back there and he had a monster game,” Lavorato said. “He came out ready to play today. We wanted to give him the last opportunity.”
Palucki’s layup gave Maine South a two-point lead with only one second to go. New Trier inbounded the ball, but Connor Boehm’s desperation three-point attempt from halfcourt came after the buzzer sounded.
“I was excited. We always practice that, end of practice, that’s our practice, game-winner,” Albano said. “I knew I was going to pass it to Palucki. He’s our man, he’s been our man the whole year. I knew we had it.”
Palucki came out firing from the start. He knocked down three three-pointers in the first five minutes, scoring nine of the team’s first 11 points.
But New Trier hung in, even after forward Austin Angel picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game. Jordan Thomas, in his usual role off the bench, came in and converted a layup inside after knocking down a jumper to pull the Trevians within two points after the first quarter.
New Trier’s David Braigel found Brian Kost for a short jumper and Boehm converted two free throws after New Trier collected two offensive rebounds. On the ensuing Hawks possession, the Trevians forced a turnover and Reid Berman got out for an easy lay-in to give New Trier a four-point lead.
Yet New Trier’s offense struggled at times against Maine South’s zone. Leading scorer Connor Boehm didn’t get his first touch in the paint until there were less than three minutes left in the first half. He promptly knocked down his patented hook shot to tie the game at 19-19.
“He’s a really good player. He’s a beat inside. We were just fortunate that he was a little bit off his game and we played really well team defense,” Maine South coach Tony Lavorato said. “We had half-help all over the place and we just wanted to make it tough on him. I thought we did.”
Starting late in the second quarter, Maine South looked inside more often to Bruce and Palucki. The two big men scored the Hawks last seven points of the quarter and Maine South went into halftime with a 23-21 lead.
“They shot the ball pretty well in the first half,” New Trier coach Scott Fricke said. “Their whole system is based on getting a lead in the first half and they got a lead and they hit some big shots at the end.”
The Trevians and Hawks continued their see-sawing battle deep into the fourth quarter with neither team leading by more than four points for the entire game.
With less than three minutes left Maine South forward Casey Bruce was blocked on a layup attempt, but the ball bounced right to Palucki for an easy putback.
“Every loose ball fell right into their hands for a layup,” Fricke said. “There were some big plays where we’re fighting for the ball and they’ve got a kid standing right underneath for a layup.”
On New Trier’s ensuing possession, forward Austin Angel was the recipient of a nice backdoor feed from Matt DiCesare to cut the Maine South lead to one point with 2:17 remaining.
That’s when Maine South started to hold the ball, calling timeouts when they found themselves caught in a double team. Palucki was fouled with 20.8 seconds and made 1-of-2 free throws. That set up the Trevians with a chance to tie and Boehm was fouled after receiving a pass down low.
Boehm led New Trier with 12 points. Palucki finished with 25 points, leading all scorers.
The Trevians lost to Maine south, 52-35, in January, but Lavorato knew this was still a huge game for his team.
“They play exceptional at this place,” said Lavorato, who had never won on the road against New Trier as Maine South’s coach. “As a team we needed to learn how to win here and win on the road consistently, which has been a struggle for us this year.”
Maine South hosts Deerfield on Tuesday and begins the state tournament on March 1.
“They had a lot of pressure, give them props,” Albano said. “They came out a lot stronger than last time and really wanted it, but we just settled down and still got the win.”