It may not have been pretty basketball for all 32 minutes, but the final four were worth the wait.
Wheaton North's boys team notched its second win of the season over cross-town rival Wheaton Warrenville South, wrapping up the first half of DuPage Valley Conference play with Friday's 37-35 thriller over the visiting Tigers.
The Falcons (7-7, 2-5) led virtually the entire way until four straight free throws by WW South's Michael Kramer tied the game at 35 with 1:16 left. A perfectly drawn up play led to Wheaton North's Mitch Vosberg feeding a post pass to Jake Heggeland for a layup that put the Falcons back on top at 37-35.
Three straight missed free throws by Wheaton North kept the Tigers (3-12, 1-6) in the hunt, but a 3-point attempt in the final 10 seconds just rimmed out. WW South grabbed a defensive rebound in the waning seconds but couldn't get a decent shot off as time expired.
"It's the Wheaton rivalry, it's always a good experience to play them," said Falcons junior Matt Biegalski. "They're not going to go away. They're Wheaton South and we're North. It'll be a dogfight for four quarters."
After the Falcons led by double digits in the first half, a steal and basket by Jaylen Howze put the advantage at 33-26 early in the fourth quarter. WW South responded with Matt Kienzle's 3-pointer and a pair of free throws by Keishawn Watson to climb right back.
As strong as the rally was, however, the Tigers simply couldn't string together enough successful possessions.
"You have to put yourself in the position before you can succeed in it," said Tigers coach Bob Szorc. "We haven't been in that situation in a while. I like the shots we got. If it goes down it's a different story, but give them credit."
Defense dominated the night, but so did poor shooting. Wheaton North made 25 percent of its shots in the final three quarters while the Tigers were 12 of 42 for the game.
Biegalski led all scorers with 12 points while Andrew Zelis had 9 points. Heggeland's lone basket of the night was pivotal, but he also added a key rebound and blocked shot in the final minute.
Kramer's 11 points paced WW South. Kienzle's 8 points came in the second half.
"Wheaton South hangs around and hangs around, and keeps the score down," said Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann. "But we executed down the stretch. We're trying to get better a little bit at a time."
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