On most of his bus rides to away games, Glenbard East's JaRon Hall spends his time joking around with his teammates.
But on this Friday, on the way to Hoffman Estates for a Class 4A regional title game, Hall was unusually quiet.
"I just wanted to come to the game prepared," he explained. "I didn't want it to be our last game of the year."
On the floor, Hall was not quiet but was very prepared, tying a career high with 24 points.
He also made sure it was not the last game of the season for the Rams as the junior led his team past Conant 50-42.
Glenbard East (20-6), which won its third regional title in the past four years, will meet Proviso East at the Schaumburg sectional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"They left the lane open," said Hall, who was 10-of-16 from the field. "So all I had to do was drive and kick."
Conant (15-14) led 8-6 early, when Hall took over. The junior scored the next 7 points to give the Rams the lead for good.
"I am really proud of our guys," Glenbard East coach Scott Miller said. "We were able to change up our defenses. This was a game that we had to methodically kind of pull away."
Conant closed to 25-23 early in the third quarter. Again, Hall got the Rams going, scoring the next 4 points to trigger an 11-3 run as Glenbard East led 36-26 with 7:38 to play. Conant never got closer than 7 points from there.
Conant was playing its third game in as many nights because of the snow earlier this week which delayed the start of the regional.
But Conant coach Tom McCormack said it was the defensive play of Glenbard East that made the difference.
"This is a very hard team to prepare for playing a game the night before," McCormack said. "With the things that they do, the strength that they have and their skill level. I am really proud of our guys for the way they stuck in there."
Just one night after Conant had five players in double figures, the Cougars had none on Friday. They shot just 33 percent (13-of-39) from the field.
"We have to make them take the hardest shot possible," said 6-foot-7 Brandon Havenga, who helped clog the middle and had 6 rebounds for Glenbard East. "One of our things is cleaning up on the boards. If we can control that, we can win the game."
Tahron Harvey had 11 points for Glenbard East while Marvin Grant-Clark added 9 points. Mark Monti came off the bench to lead Conant with 8 points while Robert Hudson and Kevin Schimel each had 7 points.
"We had a great season," Schimel said. "We were second in the holiday tournament at Christmas and we made it to the regional final for the second year in a row. I am proud of all my teammates."