Zion-Benton and Waukegan, two neighboring hoops-crazy communities, have rarely met on the court over the past decade. That’s changing now that Waukegan has joined the North Suburban conference. If Thursday is any indication, the Zee-Bees and Bulldogs now have one of the best rivalries in the state.
The game started with a touching show of community and sportsmanship. Del Yarbrough, a star basketball player at ISU and North Chicago, died on Dec. 20. He was 59. Yarbrough was a major figure in the Lake County basketball community, his sons played at Zion-Benton.
Zee-Bees coach Bob Worthington said a few words about Yarbrough and his team presented the family with flowers. The Bulldogs also went over to pay their respects to the Yarbroughs. The capacity crowd gave the family a standing ovation.
From then on, things heated up. There were several skirmishes in the stands. One resulted in a brief stoppage of play in the fourth quarter. Then a few minutes later police removed an adult fan. Another fight broke out near the court (and the Yarbrough family) with three seconds left to play. The refs had seen enough, they called the game with Waukegan leading 88-81.
The Bulldogs (10-4) led by as much as 17 points before collapsing in the fourth quarter. Senior Carson Newsome, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, was sensational. He scored a career-high 32 points.
“It was emotional,” Newsome said. “Del affected my life in a major way. I just paid my respects to him with my play.”
Newsome shot 6-for-11 from three-point range, all six were NBA distance. He also had six blocks and four free throws to seal the win. He was at the line shooting when the final fight that stopped the game occurred.
“He’s as capable an offensive player as I’ve ever had,” Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw said. “It’s all going to flow from him. If he gets us going we are going to play well early. If he doesn’t it can be more plodding.”
Waukegan led 70-54 after three quarters. Zion-Benton’s Rod Henry-Hayes, one of the state’s top unsigned seniors, scored 13 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter.
At times the Bulldogs played like a top ten team. But with three sophomores in the starting lineup, things didn’t always go smoothly.
“It’s still a growing process,” Newsome said. “We are going to work on it, we just have to learn to finish games. We were up 17 and then turned it into a personal game. We can’t have that down the stretch.”
Senior DeShawn Davidson scored 21 and had six rebounds for Waukegan. Sophomore Ja’Dyn Brown had 16 points, six rebounds and four blocks. He’s a terrific athlete with a real knack for making crucial plays. He was a key factor in the Bulldogs holding on to win.
“We are really proud of our guys,” Ashlaw said. “Maybe some of our offensive possessions were a little questionable but our character and our poise in other areas was pretty impressive, in a game that could have been insane.”
The Bulldogs already have an intense rivalry with North Chicago. Add Zion-Benton to the list.
“These games add an extra dimension to things,” Ashlaw said. “North Chicago was similar because it is personal, it is rivalry, it’s neighborhood. This one was historic on top of everything.”Tags: Waukegan, Zion-Benton