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Kain Kretschmar warms up for Lake Zurich


There may have been times this season when Lake Zurich sophomore Kain Kretschmar felt like he wasn’t quite ready for prime time.

But the way Kretschmar raced to the finish line in his first college season, it became clear that the 6-foot-10 guard had what it took to make an impact for the Bears.

“Everything was new for me and it was difficult at times,” Kretschmar said. “But I know what I can do, what I need to do for next season, and I know my limits.”

Those limitations were hard to notice as Lake Zurich played in the Class 4A Elgin Regional semifinals on Wednesday. Kretschmar had a team-high 19 points, nearly half the third-seeded Bears’ total, in a 53-39 loss to second-seeded Palatine.

Kretschmar did his best to keep Lake Zurich (22-9) in the game against the Pirates (26-8), who will play fourth-seeded Stevenson (23-8) on Friday. His 11 points in the first half helped the Bears take a 24-18 lead at halftime, but Palatine took control by outscoring them 24-8 in the third quarter.

Palatine’s aggressive 3-2 zone collapsed on junior center Anton Strelnikov in the paint, making it difficult for him to get many clear looks offensively in the half-court. Strelnikov finished the game with 10 points and 6 rebounds.

However, this opened Kretschmar’s circle and he took advantage by making three three-pointers.

“This was a huge thing for me,” Kretschmar said. “I haven’t had a moment like this in a long time. I want to play that way because I’m in control of the game, and I love playing. When I’m hot, I’m hot.

Lake Zurich’s Anton Strelnikov (center) tries to make a shot while Palatine’s Darrin Dick (left) and Tommy Elter defend during the Class 4A Elgin Regional semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (Brian O’Mahoney/News-Sun)

Those in the Lake Zurich program have seen Kretschmar, who is averaging 9.0 points and 4.0 rebounds, get hot multiple times this season.

“There are always some games where I don’t hit or double, so it’s good to have a consistent hitter who can hit like he did tonight,” Strelnikov said. “He kept us in the game and made tough shots when some of our other players weren’t hitting.”

Kretschmar, whose mother, Melanee, was an Addison Trail star and was inducted into the DePaul Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010 after scoring 1,552 points, spends a lot of time in the gym to make sure he scores.

“Working out in the gym when no one is watching gets me to a point where I know I can make the shots I make,” he said. “What I need to have to move forward is the confidence I have. That’s the biggest thing for me.”

Lake Zurich coach Terry Coughlin calls his players’ extra time in the gym “unseen hours,” and he knows Kretschmar will log most of them from now on.

“If there’s a gym, he’ll find it,” Coughlin said. “He’s really good when he plays with confidence. As a sophomore, we were asking him to step up his consistency night in and night out, and he’s capable of doing that. It wasn’t a shock to us that he had a great game today.”

Lake Zurich's Kain Kretschmar (3) hits a field goal against Palatine in the 4th quarter of the IHSA Class 4A Elgin Regional Semifinal on Wednesday, February 28, 2024.  Palatine won the game 53-39.  (Brian O'Mahoney for News-Sun)
Lake Zurich’s Kain Kretschmar shoots during a game against Palatine in the Class 4A Elgin Regional semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024. (Brian O’Mahoney/News-Sun)

Kretschmar puts defense first when it comes to finding ways to improve.

“I let a guy burn me a couple of times (on Wednesday), so I’m looking forward, I’ve got something to work on, I’m moving my feet,” he said. “I’m getting better and better and better, so that’s not going to happen when I’m the leader of this team in the coming years.”

There is little doubt that Kretschmar will fill that role in the future, which looks promising for the Bears with Strelnikov among the other returning rotation players.

“As a sophomore, I felt like it was hard to be a leader because there were seniors in front of me,” Kretschmar said. “But I think the next two years will be really fun for me and the team.”

Steve Reaven is a freelance reporter.


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