Conant's offense turned it on in the fourth quarter but still had to watch the potential tying shot roll off the rim as time expired before escaping with a 43-41 victory over Palatine in the Mid-Suburban West boys basketball opener Friday.
Conant trailed the host Pirates (2-3, 0-1) 25-22 after three quarters, but the Cougars (3-2, 1-0), led by Danny Sotos and Joe Ranallo, scored 21 fourth-quarter points and made all 7 shots they attempted.
Sotos scored 11 of his game-high 18 points and Ranallo 7 of his 14 in the fourth quarter, but Palatine had a chance to tie or take the lead.
Chris Macahon's basket with 18.9 seconds left cut the margin to 42-41. After Kevin Copher split a pair of free throws with 17.8 to go, the Pirates' Nolan Gavin (4 points) went to the line with 2.9 seconds left. He missed the free throw, but Macahon grabbed the rebound. His putback rolled off the rim as time expired.
"It wasn't just the fourth quarter," Sotos said. "At halftime, coach (Tom McCormack) said to stop being tentative, to take the shot if you have it. We never lost our confidence."
"It's a big first (division) win for us," Ranallo said. "We have to keep working hard. There's a lot of room for improvement."
"Danny Sotos hit a couple of big shots for us, but the defense kept us in it when we were missing a lot of shots," McCormack said. "The defense really gave us a chance.
"We feel we're still a long way from where we want to be," McCormack said. "We can get better on offense."
Palatine led 18-14 at halftime and stretched its lead to 25-17 before D'Angelo McBride's 3-pointer and a pair of Ranallo free throws cut the margin to 25-22 heading into the final quarter.
Sotos made all 3 of his field goals, including a pair of 3's, and the Cougars went ahead 32-31 on a layup by Ranallo with 4:42 remaining.
A 3-pointer by Sotos gave Conant its largest lead, 40-35, with 2:19 left.
"Sotos had a real nice game," Palatine coach Eric Millstone said. "He hurt us.
"As difficult as this is to swallow, we know we're a better team than we were Saturday night," he said of the loss to Deerfield.
Macahon and Justin Chaney each scored 10 points for Palatine.