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“He’s a stud,” Bill Burton yelled as he walked by fellow senior Trent Lasek after Friday night’s home win.
You’d be hard pressed to find anyone at Highland that would disagree with that statement after watching Lasek’s clutch performance.
The Huskies found a much tougher test in front of a home crowd against the 5-7 Winfield-Mount Union Wolves than they were likely expecting. They required extra time to ice a 54-53 win and Lasek found himself consistently at the heart of the action.
It wasn’t so much the 16 points he scored on the night, his field goal percentage was just under 36 percent, but when he scored them.
At the end of the first quarter, Highland found themselves down 19-8, after a 14-2 run to end the quarter. Before long, they found that deficit extended to 12 at 22-10 early in the second.
“We got a little stagnant. We settled a little early against their zone,” said head coach Marcus Hall. “Our rotation help wasn’t the best and we could’ve done a better job defending the post.”
That’s when Lasek took charge for the first time. Lasek collected nine points, including a pair of threes and points in transition off turnovers, to help cut the lead to as few as one. Lasek said that the constant motion in the offense eventually led to open shooters against the zone, that open shooter just happened to be him.
“Trent’s a gamer. He’s a competitive kid and he’s been here before in these type of games. When the moment gets bigger, I think he gets bigger,” Hall said.
The game remained close throughout the second half. Highland tied the game heading into the fourth, but found themselves quickly down five. Highland clawed their way back, with the help of a couple of threes, and tied things at 46.
Then Lasek hit what he probably assumed would be the game winning three, especially when he had a chance to make it a two possession game shooting the front end of a one and one with 1:32 to go.
Lasek missed the shot and WMU tied things up with 30 seconds to go, sending the game to an extra period. In the huddle, Hall said it was the seniors that took over.
“It was just about keeping composure and realizing we’re a good team and just keep putting our foot on the gas. Just to keep going,” Lasek said.
In overtime, Lasek tied the game up at 53. After a miss at WMU’s end Lasek noticed the zone wasn’t coming out to guard him, and with over a minute of a half to go, decided to hold for the last shot.
“I knew I could drive by him and get my shot,” Lasek said of his thought process. “They can sit in the zone however long they want, but until they come out into man-to-man we’re not going to do anything. Especially give them the ball back when there’s no reason to.”
The shot itself failed, but Lasek was fouled getting the rebound, putting him in a familiar position: at the line shooting one and one, this time with just 2.2 seconds left.
“It’s definitely a mind game,” Lasek said, one coaches have helped him get better at winning. “It’s a battle. You may have lost that one, but go out and win the next one. That’s the kind of mindset we have.”
The mindset paid off, as Lasek hit the front end this time around, providing the necessary edge for the victory.
Despite the game being closer than expected, both Hall and Lasek see it as an experience the team will learn from.
“I told the team a lot of times through the course of a 20 game season you’re going to lose some when you have a bad night and things just don’t go your way and you take a loss. I just loved the way they kept competing and kept their head and came out with a victory,” Hall said.
“We’re gonna watch film, either Monday or Tuesday, and see where we made mistakes and what we can improve on. That’s the big thing. If you can build on the little things, that’s what helps you build toward districts and so on,” Lasek said.
Zack Lasek led the Huskies in points with 19 on nine of 12 shooting. Trent Lasek led the team in assists, with nine, steals, four, and rebounds, eight.