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West Chicago comes through in the clutch
 

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West Chicago comes through in the clutch
  • West Chicago's John Konchar takes a shot during game action Tuesday.

    Purchase Photo | West Chicago's John Konchar takes a shot during game action Tuesday. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Bill Stone

West Chicago senior John Konchar may not be scoring quite as many points these days, but he continues to also amass impressive rebound numbers.

"I'm the tallest kid on the team (6-foot-4). I've got to stay around the basket and rebound," Konchar said.

In a back-and-forth home battle with Bartlett Tuesday, Konchar not only had 11 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter but 6 of his 19 rebounds as the Wildcats pulled out a 55-51 Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division boys basketball victory.

Konchar had 9 of the last 10 points by the Wildcats (12-7, 4-4 UEC Valley), including a key offensive board and putback that put them ahead for good at 47-45 with 3:10 to play. He followed with a three-point play for a 50-46 lead, but Bartlett (13-9, 3-4) closed to 52-51 on Justin Busch's 3 with 18.4 seconds to play.

Konchar's two free throws gave West Chicago a 54-51 lead with 15.7 seconds left. With Bartlett out of timeouts, Busch missed a 3 at the top of the key, and Konchar made 1 of 2 free throws with 7.4 seconds to seal the victory.

"We don't choke under pressure, really. We just play our game and hope it goes in," said Konchar, who made 15 of 18 free throws. "When I got the rebound and put that one back, I was pretty pumped. (After the three-point play), we had a safe lead -- I thought -- and continued just doing what we were doing."

West Chicago has won three straight and is 7-2 in its last nine. Bartlett (13-9, 3-4), which has lost two straight, was playing its fifth game in five days.

"The boys just won't quit. They just keep playing and plugging and they have a confidence that we're going to win this ballgame," West Chicago coach Bill Recchia said. "That's the confidence that we needed. That's what the change has been here."

West Chicago also beat Bartlett 66-58 Dec. 7, when Konchar had 42 points. This time other starters chipped in more offensively, led by sophomore Mike Bibbs and seniors Mitch Henke and Ryan Orr, who had 5 points and the team's lone 3 for the game in the fourth quarter.

"We have four senior starters and a lot of pride in winning," Henke said. "The first game, John has over half of our points. This game, they played a little bit more of a zone so we spread out the points a little bit more and it was more of a team win. Every time you win, it's satisfying, but it's fun to win these (close) games."

Henke had only 2 points in the first meeting. He had three straight first-quarter baskets Tuesday to initiate a 10-0 run and 19-7 lead early in the second quarter.

The Wildcats led 25-20 at halftime with Konchar having 7 points and 7 rebounds.

"That was something that was going to develop. John's not going to be able to score 42 a game," Recchia said. "We have good shooters. And they're taking advantage of the opportunities given to them."

The Hawks nearly rallied despite a slow start with two starters drawing two quick fouls. They also had leading scorer Ryan DiCanio foul out midway through the fourth quarter.

They received a combined 30 points from sophomore reserves Robbie Jimenez, injured for the first meeting, Cal Pauletti and Tyler Pauletti. Starter Busch had 12 points and three 3s.

"I think mentally we're fatigued," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "The starters were a little leg-weary from the games we've played. Our bench was phenomenal tonight."

Bartlett tied the game twice in the third quarter and took a 33-32 lead on a basket by Jimenez before the Wildcats scored the last six points of the period.

The Hawks led for the last time at 43-42 with 4:04 left on two free throws by Tyler Pauletti, but Orr then answered with his 3-pointer. Bartlett had eight 3s with three in the third and fourth quarters.

"When we got tied or got to 1, we didn't separate," Wolfsmith said. "We were in a position (to win). We came back against a good team with a really good player and we were right there."

Cal Pauletti tied the game at 45 with a putback before Konchar's key putback. Konchar finished with 6 offensive rebounds that led directly to 8 points.

"He's always around the basket," Recchia said. "He knows where the ball is. He sees the floor extremely well and that gets him into a good position for those rebounds."

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