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Lake Park's Carlos Cortez (left), South Elgin's Matt McClure (center) and Lake Park's Sean Moore battle for the ball Thursday. | Michele du Vair~For Sun-Times Media

Lake Park and South Elgin both entered Thursday night’s Upstate Eight Valley contest looking to snap out of recent funks and trying to claim their first wins in the month of December.

The visiting Lancers accomplished the goal by building a big lead early and then holding off several second-half runs by the short-handed Storm for a 60-45 victory.

Senior Jake Ktsanes tallied a game-high 22 points to go along with eight rebounds as Lake Park (6-4, 2-3) snapped a three-game skid. The 6-foot-4 center showed off a smooth mid-range shooting stroke throughout the contest and also went 8-for-9 at the three-throw line.

“Pick and pop, that’s what coach preaches to me,” Ktsanes said. “He wants me coming off a screen and then popping out for a 15-foot jump shot.”

South Elgin (2-7, 0-5) saw its losing streak reach six as it played without leading scorer Darius Wells for the second game in a row.

Wells was in a walking boot Thursday after suffering a left foot injury last week. He hobbled through last Friday’s loss against Bartlett and then sat out Saturday against Metea Valley.

“Something is aggravating (Wells) in his foot,” South Elgin coach Chaz Taft said. “He goes back to the doctor Friday, so it could be another two weeks. Who knows?”

The Storm scored the game’s first two baskets, but the Lancers took the lead for good when they ripped off a 20-4 run to close the first quarter. Carlos Cortez fueled the surge by draining three three-pointers and scoring 11 of his 16 points for Lake Park in the opening frame.

The Lancers enjoyed a 37-18 lead early in the third quarter before South Elgin went on a 10-2 run to trim its deficit to 39-28. Lake Park answered with an 11-1 run to push its lead to 50-29 early in the fourth quarter, but the Storm rallied again to within 52-43 with 2:56 left.

Lake Park, which also beat South Elgin at last month’s Fenton tournament, finally put the game way by sinking eight free throws in the final three minutes.

“Both are young teams and at times it’s going to get sloppy with young teams,” Lake Park coach Josh Virostko said. “I think (South Elgin) plays extremely hard. At times we play hard, but with that comes a (lack of) discipline.”

Senior Ryne Lundy scored 11 of his team-high 15 points in the fourth quarter for South Elgin. Freshman Matt Smith added 10 points and junior Robert Grant contributed six points and eight rebounds.

“We looked good at times tonight and they played hard, but we have to get those guys that don’t have that varsity experience up to varsity speed,” Taft said. “They’re a step slow right now because of the inexperience, but they’re going to get it because we’re going to keep doing it every day in practice. It’s not like we’re giving up.”

LAKE PARK 60, SOUTH ELGIN 45

Lake Park (6-4, 2-3)

Ktsanes 7 8-9 22, Cortez 3 7-8 16, Moore 3 1-2 7, VanAswegen, Vance 0 3-6 3, Karas 0 2-2 2, Caboor 0 2-2 2, Hower 1 0-0 2. Totals 16 23-30 60.

South Elgin (2-7, 0-5)

Lundy 6 3-4 15, Smith 1 8-12 10, Cager 3 0-0 7, Grant 3 0-0 6, McClure 2 1-3 5, Winsel 0 2-4 2. Totals 15 14-23 45.

LP     20     11     16     13     --     60
SE     8       8      12     17     --     45

Three-point goals – LP: 5 (Cortez 3, VanAswegen 2). SE: 1 (Cager). Fouled out – LP: Moore. SE – Smith.

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