Dedicating the game to longtime scorekeeper Jim Ackley, who passed away Tuesday at the age of 82, Mundelein started strong and never looked back in an 84-64 dismantling of host Zion-Benton Friday night.
The Mustangs (6-4, 4-1) wore warm-up jerseys recognizing Ackley for his 50 years of service, then honored him with a performance that would have kept the popular scorekeeper busy all night. All five of Mundelein's senior starters scored in double figures in the North Suburban Lake Division contest.
"Jim started scoring for Mundelein in 1962, a year before I was born," said Mustangs coach Richard Knar. "I told the guys before the game that if you want to honor Jim, you have to give a good effort right from the start."
That's exactly what the Mustangs did, jumping to an 8-2 advantage, building a 12-point lead after one quarter and taking a 14-point cushion into the locker room at halftime.
"My mom sewed '50' patches on our jerseys and then we really played hard for him," said guard Quinn Pokora, who scored 10 of his game-high 23 points from the free throw line. "Mr. Ackley would come on our San Diego trips and always wanted to be with us. He meant a lot to our team."
Six-foot-seven wing Sean O'Brien picked up a couple of early fouls, but played appropriately aggressively the rest of the way and wound up with 21 points. Also in double figures for the Mustangs were wing Cliff Dunigan with 15 points, guard Dylan Delaquila with 11 and forward Chino Ebube with 10.
Just as important as Mundelein's offensive barrage, which saw Delaquila and Pokora each knock down a trio of 3-pointers, was the defensive job Dunigan and his teammates did on Zion star Milik Yarbrough. They held the 6-6 junior forward to 21 points and limited 3-point sharpshooter Dorsey Cadette to 10 points.
"Cliff may not look athletic, but he's long with humongous hands," Knar said. "He showed he can stay with Yarbrough. And when (Yarbrough) got the ball, we'd run at him until he got rid of it and then scramble back into position."
The strategy worked, and it didn't hurt that the Zee-Bees (9-2, 5-1) failed to hit numerous open shots after dishes from the often triple-teamed Yarbrough.
"We worked on that all day in practice Thursday," O'Brien said. "Cliff did a great job of disrupting and the rest of us helped out. After I got the two early fouls, I didn't take chances on defense, but I was still able to play aggressively on offense."
Zion coach Don Kloth acknowledged his team's shortcomings Friday night, but gave all the credit to the Mustangs.
"We have areas that we have to work on," Kloth said. "Sometimes you need a game like this to grow on. But the bottom line is that Mundelein played a great game. They got off to a good start, they shot well, they defended well and they rebounded well on both ends of the court."
Knar had plenty of praise for O'Brien, his athleticism and his versatility.
"Sean was a point guard his whole life until he grew," Knar said. "He has unbelievable court awareness. He's one of the best in the state. When there's a smaller guy on him, he can shoot over him, and when there's a big guy on him, he can drive around him."