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One might think that the last conference game of the year before the holiday tournament isn't the type of game that would have the potential to be a postseason-like battle especially with so much of the league season remaining.
Friday night's 54-47 overtime win by Wheaton Warrenville South over host West Chicago sent that theory flying through an exit of the Wildcats' Bishop Gym.
The Tigers (3-5, 1-3 DuPage Valley Conference) made 4 of 5 shots in the extra time and 4 of 4 free-throw attempts to win their third game of their last four.
Coach Bob Szorc praised his team's performance.
"It was a good end to a really long stretch for us. At the end of the day, it's just one game. But we made winning plays down the stretch and into overtime," he said.
WW South senior Michael Kramer led the Tigers with a game-high 29 points, including four 3-point baskets and 12 rebounds. He helped pace his team's 13-6 advantage in the overtime with 5 points. His 14 points in the fourth quarter were crucial to WW South sending the game into OT.
And he did all this while missing a portion of the second half. With just more than four minutes remaining in the third quarter, he went limping off with a minor leg injury. He went back into the game just over a minute into the final quarter and sparked his team to wrestle the lead from West Chicago (2-7, 0-4) and keep it.
A 3-point basket and a layup by Kramer, where he drove to the basket undefended, within a minute of each other tied the game at 37 with 4:17 left in the third.
The Wildcats went back up by 4, but two free throws by Kramer and later a small hook shot by him with 43 seconds left tied the game.
"This was a hard-fought win, a physical game. Every time we play these guys it's a battle. We knew it was going to be tough," Kramer said.
Brian Summers followed Kramer on the scoresheet with 8 points.
West Chicago had three players score in double digits led by Jimmy Rizzo with 15 points, including three 3-pointers, John Konchar with 12 and Mike Zajac with 10. Konchar also grabbed 10 rebounds.
The Wildcats led 33-27 after the third quarter and led by five with just under six minutes left in the final quarter before the Tigers started their rally.
First-year coach Bill Recchia has West Chicago consistently competitive but said work remains to be done if West Chicago is to take the next step up — winning consistently.
He praised WW South for its performance but said his team didn't help its cause during the overtime.
"Little things to close out the game were not done. We do them in practice and we need to put them in games. In overtime (the Tigers) have two straight penetrations to the basket and we don't stop them. We work on that in practice," he said.
As West Chicago prepares for the Glenbard West Holiday Tournament that starts Wednesday, Recchia is optimistic about his team.
"We're competitive, but we need to learn how to win. But we're right there. We are close," he said.
WW South will spend the holidays at the Hinsdale South Holiday Tournament that also begins Wednesday.