An insurmountable lead for his team in the closing seconds allowed Crystal Lake Central guard Nick Marchetti to take his eyes briefly off the court.
He missed the shot of the game.
Mundelein's Nate Brune swished a half-court shot to beat the buzzer, capping a 32-point fourth quarter for the Mustangs, but Crystal Lake Central's play through the first three quarters was too much, allowing the Tigers to keep their perfect season intact with a 79-72 win on the final day of pool play in the Jacobs Holiday Classic Tuesday night.
"I didn't even see it go in," Marchetti said of Brune's buzzer beater from half-court. "When I came in, someone said, 'Did you see that half-courter that kid hit?' Nothing but net."
Marchetti had done enough defending of the defending tournament champs.
The 6-foot-1 senior guarded high-scoring Robert Knar, who led all scorers with 25 points but had only 10 through three quarters, as Crystal Lake Central (10-0, 3-0) built a 55-40 lead.
"The story of the game had to be Marchetti on Knar," said coach Rich Czeslawski, whose Tigers got a season-high 20 points, including two 3s, and 4 blocks from 6-7 Kyle Fleck and double-digit points as well from Chase Cane (17), Brad Knoeppel (14), Corban Murphy (11) and Nick Decoster (11, three 3s).
"I know Knar got a bunch in desperation at the end, but the job Marchetti did on him was outstanding."
Knar, who had 10 3-pointers in the first two games of the tournament, had only one 3 and attempted just four, as Marchetti made him work hard.
Knar had 15 points in the fourth, helping Mundelein (8-3, 1-2) cut a 57-40 deficit to 73-69 in the final minute.
"I just tried to make him work hard for his shots," Marchetti said. "He's a great shooter. You can't stop a player like that. You just got to slow him down."
With Marchetti trying to deny him the ball and his shot, Knar found other ways to score. He attacked the basket at both ends of the court. His 11 rebounds led the Mustangs, who were playing their second straight game without high-flying Chino Ebube, who went to Nigeria to attend his grandmother's funeral.
"I used to have a real knack for that," Knar said of hitting the glass. "We're missing Chino and he's a big contributor to the team. I was just trying to help out with that."
Knar's third steal of the game and fourth assist resulted in a 3-pointer by Brune with 37 seconds left, trimming Crystal Lake Central's lead to 73-69. But Marchetti rebounded a missed free throw by a teammate, was fouled and sank 2 free throws with 30.2 seconds remaining.
"I really thought we had them," Knar said. "We missed a key rebound, but that wasn't anybody's fault. We shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place."
Marchetti (6 points, 8 rebounds) hit 2 more foul shots in the final seconds, all but securing the Tigers' first-place finish in their pool.
"(Mundelein) sped us up a little bit at the end, like they should have," said Czeslawski, whose Tigers will play Elk Grove at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. "They did a fantastic job in the fourth quarter, being down (17). They did exactly what they needed to do."
Crystal Lake Central shot 56 percent (30 of 54). Mundelein took 30 more shots (29 of 84) but hit at only a 35-percent clip.
"They're a good team," Marchetti said. "They just kept coming back. They never thought they were out of it, and the way they shoot, they never are out of it."
Mundelein, which next plays Rockford Jefferson at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, also got big games from Cliff Dunigan (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Sean O'Brien (14 points, 9 boards, 3 steals).
Mundelein held a 15-11 lead after one, but Decoster's trio of 3s in a span of 2 minutes, 5 seconds late in the first half, and Fleck's fall-away 3 at the buzzer, had Crystal Lake Central up 34-27 at halftime.
"We knew they could shoot," Mustangs coach Dick Knar said. "Our help was getting too deep (on the 3-pointers)."
The Tigers hit 9 of 12 shots -- including 3s by Knoeppel and Murphy -- in the third quarter and led 55-40 heading into the fourth.
"I can live with our fourth quarter," Dick Knar said. "It was those six minutes in the second quarter and those 6-7 minutes in the third quarter."