Wheeling set out with a plan on Thursday night -- to keep the ball out of Buffalo Grove senior guard Luke Potnick's hands as much as possible.
The Wildcats executed this plan by trapping and double-teaming Potnick nearly every time he touched the ball. On a few instances the double team came before Potnick even caught the ball. The philosophy behind the strategy is one that reaches across all team sports: don't let the opponent's best player beat you.
Potnick did not beat Wheeling. But Buffalo Grove did.
The Bison used a balanced scoring attack that saw four players reach double figures in a 72-54 win.
"I figured that philosophy would come at some point," Buffalo Grove coach Ryan O'Connor said. "We hadn't seen it yet. Obviously when we saw it, it was nice to see the other guys respond. Those guys stepped up, and were able to finish at the basket. So we've shown that we can win that way."
In the first half Potnick (7 points) picked up a technical foul, and O'Connor pulled him from the game. He did not return until the second half. The Bison were able to maintain their lead with balance with Potnick on the bench.
Senior guard Jonah Malin scored a game-high 18 points, with 13 of them (including three 3-pointers) coming in the first half.
"We moved the ball around really well, so I got some open shots, and some other people got some open looks and made us get on our little run," Malin said.
Malin also credited his team's effort on the defensive end in the first half. The Bison held the Wildcats to 20 first-half points.
Buffalo Grove (4-3, 1-1) junior guard Andrew Apel, who finished with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists, and senior guard Steve Soifer (12 points), were also key contributors in the win.
After halftime, Buffalo Grove struggled to make jump shots, but senior forward Kevin Newman was there to clean up.
"That's the best half of basketball I've seen Kevin play ever," O'Connor said. "I'm hoping that is a springboard for that to continue. I thought he played great."
Newman scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in the game. Eleven of those 13 points came in the second half.
"I always say that defense and rebounds is what I'm here for, and the points will come along with it," Newman said. "As long as I play hard defense and run back, I'm going to get some points coming with rebounds."
Wheeling (3-5, 0-2) had a balanced scoring attack as well. Junior guard Chris Pierro, senior guard Nate Majkowski and senior guard Kameron Hill each scored 10 points. Senior guard Nick Riccardi added 9, and senior guard Bubba Bendewald scored 7.
"Their bench and secondary guys really did a heck of a job," Wheeling coach Anthony Como said. "Jonah scoring 18 tonight was a big factor. We wanted to put pressure on their other guys to knock down key shots. He did a great job. I give him and their team a lot of credit."