New year . . . new Mustangs?
With all injured players back from assorted bruises, breaks and ailments, Rolling Meadows started a boys basketball game at full strength for the first time Friday at home against Mid-Suburban East rival Buffalo Grove.
The answer as to how the team would mesh came midway through the first quarter when the Mustangs turned a 9-2 deficit into a 27-14 lead in a span of nearly eight minutes.
The team, led by Matt Dolan (21 points), Brian Sabal (10) and returning point guard Austin Reed (10), maintained control of the game and started 2013 with a 63-56 victory.
"We said, 'Full strength, full throttle,'" Meadows coach Kevin Katovich. "This was the first time we had the team at full strength, and then we lost A.J. (Aluquin) with a sprained ankle.
"We hope we can have a successful second half of the season."
Aluquin left the game in the first quarter when he turned his ankle and didn't return. But Reed, back from a broken leg suffered in the football playoffs, took over at the point and played the kind of game that Katovich had hoped for.
"He has an aura of confidence about him," Katovich said. "He's a three-sport athlete, and things don't rattle him. Those are the kind of guys you want out there."
Dolan, who Katovich described as "being under the radar" most of the season despite averaging a double-double, was a force inside with 9 baskets, most of which came on putbacks or from short range.
"This was the team we thought we were going to have," Dolan said. "We came out knowing we were going to win.
"It was good having Austin back, too," Dolan said. "He created shots for other players."
"We didn't play very well," BG Coach Ryan O'Connor said, "and that's a credit to Rolling Meadows. We played well enough to stick around, but we didn't the confidence to make a surge at the end."
Meadows' offensive awakening in the first quarter proved to be their confidence builder.
"When were down 9-2, we were questioning ourselves, but that run got us going and kept us going for the rest of the game," Dolan said.
One of the big tasks for the Mustangs (5-11, 2-3) was trying to control BG's top scorer Luke Potnick, who finished with 8 points.
"That was our goal," Katovich said. "If he scored, we wanted him to work for it and not be in his comfort zone. He's a great player and has a lot of comfort zone."
Andrew Apel led the Bison (7-9, 2-3) with 16 points, Steve Soifer finished with 13, and Scott Smithern added 10.
"We did not do a good job of blocking out," O'Connor said. "Their offensive rebounding turned into putbacks and translated into points. They shot a lot of layups, some in their offense and some on second-shot opportunities."