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Mundelein's boys basketball team has played the first month of the season without injured star Robert Knar.
On Saturday night, the Mustangs played without Robert's dad.
Mundelein coach Dick Knar missed his team's home game with rival Libertyville to attend to his ailing father in central Wisconsin.
"I'm glad he went," said assistant coach Corey Knigge, who filled in for Knar. "He was not happy about having to leave the boys on a game night, but it was the right thing to do."
Inspired by their coach, who gave an emotional pep talk via telephone before the game, the Mustangs went out and nearly cracked the century mark. They won 99-63 in a highly entertaining North Suburban Lake Division contest in which Mundelein's Sean O'Brien produced a triple-double and a total of seven players between the two sides scored in double figures.
"We were very motivated," Mustangs forward Chino Ebube said after adding to his season-highlight film with a game-high 26 points — which included 5 monster dunks — 7 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. "We had to have a win for Coach Knar. I was thinking about him all day."
Mundelein point guard Quinn Pokora equaled his career-high of 18 points in the first half alone and finished with 22 points and 4 steals. O'Brien rang up 18 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists for his second career triple-double. Cliff Dunigan had 14 points and 7 rebounds, and Dylan Delaquila chipped in 8 points and 4 steals, as Mundelein's starters outscored Libertyville's 88-45.
Matt Reed came off the bench to lead Libertyville (1-8, 0-4) with 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting (two 3-pointers). Matt Varner and Jack Lipp added 12 and 11 points, respectively. Jack Deichl (two 3s) and sophomore point guard Drew Cayce netted 8 points apiece.
The game ended bitterly, however.
After Mundelein's backups missed 4 in-tight scoring chances in a row to crack 100 points, with the home fans whooping it up, Libertyville secured the rebound, hustled into the frontcourt and went to a four-corners stall. The Wildcats held the ball for the final minute, until Connor Clark scored an uncontested layup with a second left.
Knigge and Wildcats coach Scott Bogumil exchanged words in the handshake line.
"Sometimes it's hard because the kids get excited. The fans get excited," Knigge said. "They wanted to see 100 (points), for whatever reason. It's just hard as a coach because you don't want to embarrass anybody, but you want your kids who work hard every day — and are important and work as hard as everybody else — to go in the game and do the things they work on every day."
Mundelein (5-4, 3-1) bolted to a 13-0 lead to start the game and led 35-10 after one quarter on 12-of-16 shooting (4 of 6 from three-point range). The Mustangs' second quarter included a pair of alley-oop dunks by Ebube off O'Brien dishes from outside the arc. Ebube also snatched a short lob from Nate Williams and jammed with one hand.
Mundelein led 55-30 at halftime and was up 86-51 after three quarters.
Pokora's career night saw him shoot 6 of 9, including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. He twice hit 3 free throws in as many attempts after being fouled while shooting a 3.
"With Coach Knar being gone, it was a really emotional game for us," Pokora said. "Personally, I just wanted to play hard for him. He means a lot to this team. He puts a lot of heart and hard work into our team. We were all pumped from the speech he gave before the game."
Interestingly for Knigge, he filled in for Knar one other time, when Knar was being inducted into the University of Illinois-Chicago hall of fame, and the Mustangs also played Libertyville — and won.
"I'm 2-0 against Libertyville," said a smiling Knigge, who 10 years ago served a two-year stint as head coach at tiny Alwood High near the Quad Cities.
The win was Mundelein's third straight and came on the heels of last weekend's quality victory over Warren.
"This week of practice was outstanding, especially the last three days," Knigge said. "We cut them off (Friday) after about an hour and 15 minutes because they were playing just so hard."