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With nearly a third of its bench looking like a trauma ward at an area hospital, Rolling Meadows needed a lift.
The Mustangs got one from junior Matt Dolan, who scored 16 points and had 7 rebounds in his first start.
But Dolan's efforts weren't enough to overcome 33 Mustangs turnovers as Rolling Meadows dropped its boys basketball season opener 50-41 Tuesday at the Ed Molitor Thanksgiving Classic at Palatine High School.
"We did a nice job when we got the ball into the big guys," said Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich, who has five players out with various injuries. "We just had those turnovers. That obviously hurt us."
"We were playing a lot better in the first half," said Dolan, who is a 6-foot-3 forward. "In the second half, we just let it slip away from us. We need to clean stuff up and come out better tomorrow."
Niles North hit 5 of its first 6 shots as the Vikings opened up a 10-5 lead. But the Mustangs began to find Dolan down on the baseline as Rolling Meadows ran off 12 unanswered points with Dolan scoring the last eight of those to lead 16-12 late in the first quarter
"We were trying to do back-cuts alot," Dolan said. "And I was trying to post up because they had a lot of guys who were much shorter than me. There were a lot of mismatches, and that is what we were trying to get."
The turnover bug, however, began to catch up with the Mustangs.
Rolling Meadows led 20-19 with 4:48 left in the first half on a free throw by Tim Smith. Niles North then went on an 11-1 run to close off the half as the Mustangs committed 6 of their 9 second-quarter turnovers down that stretch.
It went from bad to worse on the turnover scale as the Mustangs turned the ball over on 7 of its first 9 possessions of the second half. Only the strong defense and rebounding by Rolling Meadows kept the Mustangs close as they trailed 40-31 after three quarters.
"Defensively, I was pleased with the way we played," said Katovich, whos team outrebounded Niles North 34-15.
"We did a nice job taking away things from them. We also made them work for all their shots."
Niles North's Malachi Mix, who led all scorers with 19 points, kept the Mustangs at bay in the fourth quarter as Rolling Meadows never got closer than 8.
Jack Milas, who made the transition from quarterback on the football team to playing forward on the basketball team look easy. Milas finished with 12 points and 5 rebounds for the Mustangs.
"It was good to be out here," Milas said. "We need to take care of the ball better. But over time throughout the season, I think we will take much better care of the ball."