Elk Grove entered Friday night riding high from its 94-point effort and third-place finish last week at the Chuck Mitchell Thanksgiving tournament.
Freezing temperatures outside and a stingy zone defense from host Rolling Meadows slowed the Elk Grove offense. But two key second-half spurts propelled the Grenadiers to a 47-42 win over the Mustangs in the Mid-Suburban East opener for both teams.
Trailing 22-20 after the first 16 minutes of play, the Grens (4-1, 1-0) opened the second half on a 10-0 run. A 7-0 spurt midway through the final eight minutes of play erased a 3-point deficit as the visitors never looked back.
"First conference game of the year, I think we came out and played pretty tentatively," Grens coach Anthony Furman said. "We made a couple nice runs in the second half and that was a big difference as it helped with our confidence some."
Dan Hadler and Scott Furlong were the catalysts of the first spurt. Hadler knocked down a pair of treys -- his only two buckets of the game -- while Furlong went turned a pair of half-court steals into lay-ups.
"Dan (Hadler) hit a couple big 3's for us to get us going there in the second half," Furman said.
The Mustangs (1-4, 0-1) did not back down from the Grens' second-half pressure. Rolling Meadows finished the third period with an 11-4 run to close the gap to just one heading into the final eight minutes of play.
The hosts carried the momentum into the final frame as Matt Dolan finished a nice feed underneath from Charlie Metzger (9 points, 7 rebounds) for a 35-34 lead with 6:28 to play. On the Mustangs' next possession Dolan cleaned up the glass with an offensive put-back for a 3-point advantage.
Furlong went back to work as he sparked the pivotal 7-0 run with a rebound bucket of his own followed by a jumper from the elbow to put the Grens back in front. Bryan Alcazar (8 points) finished the run with a triple from the left wing for a 41-37 lead with 4:05 to play.
The Mustangs could not pull any closer than 2 points the rest of the way.
"This was a nice road test in our first game in the conference," Furlong said of the win. "As a team we just gutted it out and I couldn't be happier with how we played."
Furlong led the Grens with a game-high 14 points and four steals. He was the only Gren to score in double figures as six other players scored.
Jonny Ungerean led the Mustangs with 12 points and a game-high 11 boards. Dolan chipped in with 11 points. Pat Kramp, whose buzzer-beater from downtown gave the Mustangs a 13-11 lead after the first, added 10 points in the loss.
Hadler finished with 8 points for the Grens and 2 blocks -- both coming in the fourth period.
"Tonight was just a good, hard-fought victory for us although it was sloppy," Furman concluded.