The postgame talk focused on defense in the Metea Valley boys basketball team's 57-48 victory at West Chicago on Friday night.
"We're excited to get this one against a team on a roll," said Metea Valley junior Nick Dodson, who finished with a team-high 17 points. "We were focused on defense big time and it paid off."
The Mustangs earned their first Upstate Eight Valley win of the season against two losses and improved to 3-4 overall. West Chicago dropped to 5-3, 2-1.
Vital to Metea Valley's chances of winning the game was how they defended Wildcats big man John Konchar. The 6-foot-4-inch senior showed during the first two conference games that he's a player who teams at best can contain but not shut down. He scored 37 points with 17 rebounds in a win over East Aurora and 42 points and 23 rebounds during a victory over Bartlett.
Against the Mustangs, Konchar finished with a game-high 21 points and pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds.
"I was very impressed with the way we responded against him in the first quarter," said Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza. "I thought Marquell Oliver and Nick Dodson did a great job against him. It was good overall team defense."
Metea Valley led 12-11 after the first quarter and Dodson's third 3-pointer of the second quarter put the Mustangs up 28-20 before Konchar responded with 55 seconds left until halftime with a 3-pointer of his own.
A basket by Ethan Doell and a free throw by Konchar gave West Chicago a 30-29 advantage almost two minutes into the third quarter.
A three-point play by Konchar with 46.3 seconds left in the third tied at the game at 38 before Metea's Michael Sifkas sank a 3-pointer to make it 41-38 Mustangs at quarter's end.
Metea Valley's Mark Konkle hit net on a putback to put his team up by 8 with about 5:30 left in the contest. The Wildcats later got the lead down to four with just less than a minute to play. But Metea was 5 of 6 from the free-throw line after that to secure the win and was 7 of 9 for the quarter.
Also hitting for double-digit points for Metea were Oliver with 12 and Justin Kuehn with 11.
Vozza said West Chicago was in a man-to-man defense when the Mustangs put some space between them and the Wildcats later in the second half.
"We were patient and ran our man sets. During a few possessions we rushed it mostly for layups and get to the line at the end," he said.
Michael Bibbs followed Konchar on the scoresheet with 11 points.
"We did not do the extra things in the second half," said West Chicago coach Bill Recchia. "We did not knock down a shot when we needed to or get a rebound or hit free throws. That was on four or five possessions and that could have narrowed it down. But take nothing away from Metea, they are a solid team."
Both teams are back in action Saturday with South Elgin at Metea Valley and West Chicago hosting Neuqua Valley. Both games start at 6 p.m.
"The kids expect to win basketball games and that's a difference from last year," Recchia said.