How good was Jeremy Stephani’s shooting night Friday at Rolling Meadows?
So good that even his outlet passes almost went in the basket.
Trapped in the backcourt by a couple of Meadows defenders late in the game, the Wheeling senior fired a long jump pass intended for a teammate open under the Wildcats basket.
But instead of connecting with the waiting Wildcat, his long toss instead nearly swished through the basket for a 70-foot 3 pointer, just bouncing off the rim.
It was just one of those nights for Stephani, as the senior guard poured in 32 points in Wheeling’s 64-57 Mid-Suburban East victory over the Mustangs.
“Sometimes he just doesn’t miss,” said 6-4 Meadows senior forward Matt Dolan of Stephani. “There’s nothing you can do about it.”
Dolan almost matched Stephani basket for basket, scoring 25 points, mostly on strong moves close to the hoop.
But on this night Stephani and the Wildcats were just too tough.
“I’ve only coached him for two years,” said Wheeling coach Anthony Como of his star senior, “but Jeremy has stepped up his game at every level.
“He’s a fantastic player and fantastic kid, and in my mind he’s a real MSL Player of the Year candidate.”
Meadows trailed just 31-27 at halftime as Dolan had 17 of points before the break, but Stephani (4 consecutive 3-pointers in the third quarter) and teammate Ola Arogundade (6 of his 15 points in the period) helped Wheeling open up a 13-point second-half lead.
The Mustangs were able to close within 51-50 early in the fourth quarter after Dolan sank 2 free throws, but the Wildcats then went on a 7-point run to give themselves some breathing room.
Meadows closed the gap again behind the long-range shooting of senior Pat Kramp (3 3’s, 11 points), but a late basket from Wheeling 6-7 sophomore center Patrick Szpir (6 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks) put the contest out of reach.
“I really couldn’t predict anything about how this game would go based on our play of the last month,” said Como. “We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been working hard but have not gotten a lot of wins to show for it. Our last nine games have all been close and could have gone either way.
“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for Rolling Meadows, but we knew we had to come out with a lot of energy and play for four quarters. That’s a tribute to Kevin (Meadows coach Katovich) and his staff. They’ve got a well-run program.”
Rolling Meadows senior forward Jonny Ungurean pitched in 10 points for the home team.
“We didn’t follow our game plan tonight to stop Stephani,” said Dolan, who added a game-high 13 rebounds to go along with his team-high point total. “When Jeremy goes off, the whole team goes off.
“We also didn’t handle their press very well. We’ve got a lot of young guys, but even the seniors didn’t play well under pressure tonight.”