Addison Trail threw a myriad defensive looks at West Chicago's John Konchar in Monday's first round of the Wildcat Turkey Classic. The Blazers tried everything from a 1-3-1 zone, man to man, full-court pressure and a variety of different defenders to contain West Chicago's 20-points-a-game scorer from last season.
But none of these strategies could slow the senior standout. Konchar poured in 34 points and added 13 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocks to pace the Wildcats to a 74-67 victory in West Chicago.
"John's a phenomenal athlete and player," West Chicago coach Bill Recchia said. "He's a great all-around player and has an outstanding attitude. He obviously is a good scorer, but he also rebounds, defends, sees the floor, distributes the ball, gets everyone involved in the offense and has assumed a leadership role on the floor without having to be asked."
Konchar put on a show in a matchup with another of the area's top scorers, Addison Trail's James Pupillo. Coming off a 16.9 points-a-game season as a junior, the Blazers' senior point guard started his team's season opener with 9 first-quarter points that pushed Addison Trail to a 13-11 lead. A 3-pointer from teammate Ronald Duling extended the lead to 22-15 with 5½ minutes left in the first half, but that's when West Chicago and Konchar began exerting control.
Konchar's three-point play capped a 10-2 run that propelled the Wildcats ahead for the first time 25-24 two minutes later. The lead swung back and forth for a couple of minutes until West Chicago seized the lead for good 32-31 on a Konchar free throw with 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
The Blazers (0-1) stayed on the Wildcats' heels for most of the third quarter before senior guard Mitch Henke sank a pair of free throws with 22 seconds to go, giving the hosts a 48-42 edge that provided a bit of breathing room for West Chicago (1-0) heading into the fourth quarter.
Konchar took over from there. The 6-foot-4 guard/forward, who frequently brought the ball up the floor and initiated West Chicago's offense as a point guard, erupted for 17 fourth-quarter points, including 12 of the Wildcats' first 19 points of the final period. Konchar used various methods to find the basket, starting the quarter with a crossover dribble move he converted into a driving layup and free throw that made it 53-44.
After sinking two pairs of free throws, he nailed a three from the top of the key that stretched the margin to 63-50, then added a transition layup, another free throw, a short bank shot and a breakaway dunk to cap his performance. He threw in 3 rebounds and a block for good measure.
"I had a lot to look forward to this game," said Konchar, who has a scholarship offer from Notre Dame College of Ohio and several Division III schools pursuing him from the College Conference of Illinois Wisconsin, including Elmhurst College and Augustana. "It's my senior season, the first game of my last season here, our Thanksgiving tournament, our first home game. I was excited to get out there and play."
Konchar received solid support from two younger teammates. Sophomore Mike Bibbs lit up the Blazers for 12 second-quarter points, including a trio of 3-pointers, in his first varsity start. Junior Alex Mitchell came off the bench to bury two 3-pointers in the third quarter and a pair of fourth-quarter layups for 10 crucial second-half points.
"It was a complete team effort," Recchia said. "It's an absolute joy walking into the gym with this group each day. The team attitude these players have is phenomenal."
Pupillo did his part to try to keep Addison Trail in the game, finishing with 27 points. Senior backcourt mate Joe Kurucar added 17 points.
West Chicago is tied with Lake Zurich and Geneva at 1-0 through one round of play in the round-robin tournament. Earlier on Monday, Geneva beat Marmion 65-60 and Lake Zurich outlasted King 82-77 in a game that featured 64 fouls and saw seven players foul out. The Wildcats face Lake Zurich at 8 p.m. Tuesday while Geneva plays King at 6:30 and Addison Trail meets Marmion at 5 p.m.