Wheaton Warrenville South jumped all over West Chicago early and held off a second-half rally during Friday night's DuPage Valley Conference contest.
The Wildcats trimmed a 13-point second-half deficit down to 1 in the final two minutes, but the Tigers held on for a 48-42 win behind some key baskets and accurate free-throw shooting.
"I thought that we had some really good looks that didn't go down, but when it mattered, our kids were able to put the ball in the bucket on key possessions," Wheaton Warrenville South coach Bob Szorc said. "That's the story of the game right there."
West Chicago (5-18, 0-11) struggled in the first half, connecting on just five field goals, and was down by as many as 9 points with 1:27 left.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by John Konchar and Jimmy Rizzo cut the Tigers' lead to 22-17, but a 3-pointer from the baseline by Matt Kienzle as the first-half buzzer sounded gave Wheaton Warrenville South (6-17, 2-10) a 25-17 lead at the half.
"We just went through the motions the first eight minutes," West Chicago coach Bill Recchia said. "It's been kind of our Achilles' heel the entire year, and I wish I had an answer for how we can come out of the gate and start playing at 7:30 as opposed to 7:40."
A 3-pointer by Keishawn Watson gave the Tigers their largest lead of the night at 34-21 before the Wildcats began to rally. A 9-0 run by West Chicago cut Wheaton Warrenville South's lead to 34-30 as Konchar scored eight straight at one point. He finished with a game-high 19 points.
"The great thing about John is that he's constantly looking for his teammates," Recchia said. "He's one of the most unselfish players I've ever coached. It's a great compliment to pay to someone who's putting up 20-plus points a game."
Rizzo knocked down a pair of free throws with 2:18 left in the game, and the Wildcats were down 40-39, but they would get no closer.
Kienzle made the key basket of the night when he dribbled around his defender and nailed a 10-foot jumper along the baseline, giving his team a three-point cushion.
He then found teammate Michael Kramer alone under the basket on the Tigers' next possession.
Kramer finished 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the final 30 seconds.
"Kienzle's pullup that extended the lead to three was huge, and then we were able to hit our free throws down the stretch," Szorc said. "West Chicago made a great run, but I'm extremely proud that we were able to sustain an effort until the end of the game."