Elk Grove and Rolling Meadows each had its own motivation for their Mid-Suburban East boys basketball game Friday on the Mustangs' court.
The Grens had just snapped a 5-game losing streak earlier in the week against Streamwood but were still hoping to get back in the MSL East title picture. Meadows was trying to put a 17-point offensive performance against Prospect last week in the rearview mirror.
And both teams played with the effort and focus needed to accomplish those goals.
In the end, Elk Grove (10-10, 5-2) was able to ride the 16-point fourth quarter outburst by Austin Amann and 8 points from Joell Melendez and escape with a 51-48 victory. Coupled with Hersey's win at Prospect, the Grens trail Prospect by just 1 game.
"We were trying to come out with more energy," Amann said. "The last two games put us over that bump."
It took Amann (24 points) a while to get his offense revved up. He sat out the opening minutes of the game (for arriving late for a team meeting) and didn't score his first points until 2:05 remained in the first quarter.
"We're not at a point where we're playing our best ball right now," Elk Grove coach Anthony Furman said. "This was a confidence builder."
Meadows, led by a pair of baskets by Matt Dolan (16 points) and a long 3-pointer by Austin Reed (12 points), stretched its lead from 31-29 to 40-33 with 4:37 left in the game.
That's when Amann and Melendez (12 points) went to work. Amann hit back-to-back 3 pointers cutting the margin to 40-39. Melendez converted 6 of 6 from the foul line, and Amann scored on a putback in a 14-1 run that gave the Grens a 47-41 lead with 1:17 left.
"That was a huge turning point," Furman said. "We knew Rolling Meadows would run a methodical offense. They're big and tough."
Another long 3 by Reed and a pair of driving layups by A.J. Aluquin sandwiched around 2 free throws by Amann pulled the Mustangs (5-13, 2-5) to within 1, 49-48. Amann closed out the scoring with 2 free throws with 16.1 seconds left. Aluquin's game-tying attempt off the glass bounced off the rim as time expired.
"We bounced back from last game," Meadows coach Kevin Katovich said. "It's a step in the right direction.
"This week, the focus was on us, and we put the emphasis on what we need to do and get back to basics and fundamentals."