Conant's senior night 61-37 boys varsity basketball win over Barrington was very emotional.
For downstate Washington High School, that is.
When the small town sustained critical damage during a tornado in November just before its Class 5A state semifinal football game against Springfield-Griffin, the story touched Conant point guard Joey Ranallo.
Did it ever.
Harnessing the same passion with which he breaks down an opposing team's defense for the Cougars, he spearheaded a fundraising drive that culminated Friday night in a $15,000 donation to the downstate school, whose senior administrators were in attendance to receive the check.
"We realized what was going on," Ranallo said of the effort. "We wanted to connect."
And then Ranallo and the Cougars broke down the Broncos.
Applying their usual sticky defense, they forced 15 first-half turnovers and built a 30-17 lead as 6-foot-4 forward D'Angelo McBride exploded for 17 of his game-high 21 points in the first half on 6-of-8 shooting.
"Our three inside guys (McBride, Ryan Blaha, Danny Sotos) rebounded really well," Conant coach Tom McCormack said of career win No. 502, which elevated his team to 18-4 overall and 7-1 in the Mid-Suburban West.
Ranallo took charge in the second half, scoring 11 of his 13 points and hitting his last 5 shots from the floor. And even when he and fellow starting guard Kevin Copher were sitting in foul trouble, Conant gave away little as Drew Lydon, Kyle Bradley, Mike Upchurch and Palmer Graham provided some huge minutes off the bench.
"Our bench gave us a lot of energy," said Ranallo.
"I really like what our bench was able to give us," said McCormack, whose team hit its first 7 shots in the third quarter and expanded a 13-point halftime lead into a 47-23 bulge.
Barrington (9-14, 3-5) got 17 points from Austin Madrzyk, who shot 7-for-12 from the field. But the rest of the team felt the pinch of Conant's defense and shot a combined 7-for-20, and just 1-of-7 on 3-pointers.
"We're turning up the defense. We're getting after it," said Ranallo.
"I thought, defensively, we were really solid right from the start," said McCormack.
In more ways than one.
Ranallo's fundraising effort was targeted at $10,000 but exceeded that goal by a wide margin.
For Ranallo, the outcome -- of the fundraising effort, that is -- meant everything.
"It was one of the most-important nights of my life," he said.
The game wasn't bad either.