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Halftime was like the exchange in a relay race.
A two-person relay race, that is.
Robert Knar shot out of the starting block fast Thursday night and gave Mundelein a slim lead over Huntley halfway through the teams' race for the holiday tournament championship at Jacobs. During the break, he passed the baton to Ryan Sawvell, who finished up.
Sawvell helped to maintain the lead before kicking it into high gear for the home stretch.
Ultimately, the Mustangs crossed the finish line in first place at Jacobs for the first time in school history, outlasting Huntley in the championship game, 60-50.
Mundelein, which went a perfect 5-0 for the tournament, moves to 12-2 on the season. Prior to this run, the Mustangs had never been in the championship game at Jacobs. Their highest finish was third place last year and in 2000.
Huntley, meanwhile, drops to 10-2.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to know that this is the first time we've ever won (the Jacobs tournament)," Sawvell said. "The trophy was sitting outside (in the lobby) before the game and (senior guard) Leavon Head said to all of us, 'This is what we're here for. We're not leaving without that.'"
The Mustangs were able to add to their trophy case in large part because Knar picked up the slack for Sawvell, and vice versa.
Huntley picked its poison in the first half and chose to focus their defense on Sawvell, the 6-foot-8 center who has already committed to the University of Evansville and had 25 points in Mundelein's semifinal game against Bartlett on Wednesday night.
The Red Raiders packed the lane and gave Sawvell very little room to work with. He was forced to take a lot of jumpers in the first half and never found his rhythm. At halftime, we was scoreless.
But, in the meantime, Knar had rolled up the baskets. He scored Mundelein's first 17 points, which wound up being his point total at halftime. He had 3 huge three-pointers and had guided the Mustangs to a 26-23 lead at the break.
"I told Robert at halftime, 'I guarantee you that they're going to start running people at you in the second half, they're going to start face-guarding you,'" said Mundelein coach Dick Knar, Robert's dad. "I said, 'We've got to start running some plays for Ryan and doing some more things going to the basket.' In the second-half, that's what happened, things kind of reversed."
They sure did. Suddenly, Robert Knar became the focus of Huntley's defense, and his shots stopped falling.
Until he hit 7 free throws in the final minute of the game, when the Red Raiders were purposely fouling to get the ball back, Knar had scored 3 second-half points. He was 1-of-7 from the field.
But, in the meantime, Sawvell was sprinting full steam ahead with that baton. With the defense more focused on Knar, he scored all 14 of his points in the third and fourth quarters.
"That's the beautiful thing about our team," Robert Knar said. "Sawvell knows that when I'm not getting it done that he can do it for us and he did it for us in the second half. He did a great job of posting up, hitting shots and getting fouled. I think he really propelled us (to victory)."
Knar, who went 7-of-8 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to seal the victory, finished with a game-high 27 points for the Mustangs. He and Sawvell, the only double-figure scorers in the game for Mundelein, were both named to the all-tournament team.
Huntley got three players on the all-tournament team: Troy Miller, Dylan Neukirch and Tyler Brunschon.
Brunschon scored a team-high 14 points for the Red Raiders while Neukirch added 13 points.
"It's a tough loss to take," Brunschon said. "We tried to focus on each one of those guys (Knar and Sawvell), but they hit some big shots. The shots were there for us, too, but we just didn't hit enough. Too many went in and out."