Despite his team leading by as many as 11 points midway through the fourth quarter, Metea Valley basketball coach Bob Vozza didn't have that comfortable feeling heading down the stretch against St. Charles East Thursday night.
"It was like you knew it was coming at some point," Vozza said of the late Saints' comeback bid.
Trailing 63-52 with 3:56 remaining, the host Saints (5-2) scored 9 unanswered points -- 7 of them by Purdue-bound senior Kendall Stephens -- to trim the Mustangs' lead to 2 at 63-61 with 2:43 left.
But Melvin Meeks (11 points) and teammate Sean Davis each hit a pair of free throws in the final 1:18, as Metea Valley hung on for a 69-64 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory.
"With the season they're having and the start they had, getting a win over a quality opponent on the road is huge in this conference," Vozza said of his team's fourth consecutive triumph.
Davis, a 6-2 senior forward, scored 16 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and canned 9-of-12 free throws, including 6 in the fourth quarter.
"We've been looking for one of these," Davis said of the quality road win. "Everybody keeps doubting us. We had to show that we can run up and down the floor with them (the Saints)."
Davis connected on a 3-pointer from the corner and later added a 3-point play during a crucial 2-minute stretch late in the third quarter.
"My teammates found me," said Davis, who also led the Mustangs with 6 rebounds. "They knew I was hot."
Vozza felt that Davis picked a perfect night for his strong offensive outing.
"He might have had one game like that in the last two years," said Vozza. "He's got the ability. At times, he maybe tries to force a couple things but today it seemed that more times than not he didn't force it and got some good looks for us.
"In the fourth quarter, he was big for us when they (the Saints) looked to creep back into it."
Stephens, who made 7 of his 11 field-goal attempts en route to a game-high 27 points, and senior forward Ben Skoog (10 points, 8 rebounds) tried to ignite the second-half rally for the Saints, who trailed 36-27 at halftime and held its only lead at 2-0 during the game's first 14 seconds.
"I don't think mentally we were ready to play," said Saints coach Patrick Woods. "I don't know if we were overconfident or what but nine turnovers in the first quarter and 22 for the game … I don't need any other stat -- that's enough right there."
Dom Adduci added 13 points for the Saints, who were without the services of starting forward David Mason (flu).
"David was sick and couldn't make it through the day (at school)," said Woods. "He was going to guard 21 (Davis), and that's who killed us."
Woods hoped his team discovered some valuable lessons in the defeat.
"A loss is not a bad thing at this point of the season as long as you learn from it," said Woods, whose team visits Batavia Saturday night.
Vin Patel had 10 points, while Trayvond Taylor added 9 for the Mustangs, who visit Waubonsie Valley Saturday.
"We got off to a tough start (1-4) but we're trying to pick it up," said Davis. "It doesn't get any easier with Waubonsie Saturday."