2016-'17 Season Coverage
updated: 11/23/2016 9:22 PM

Conant shakes off Libertyville late

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By Lou Nunez, Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent

Sometimes a game's final score can be deceivng.

Take the case of Conant's 70-52 victory over Libertyville in third-round action of the 40th annual Joe Majkowski Thanksgiving Tournament at St. Viator on Wednesday night.

It was a nip-and-tuck affair for about the first 33 minutes -- until a 16-6 Cougar run over the final 3:20 created the final result at Cahill Gym in Arlington Heights.

"It was a close one," a relieved Jimmy Sotos said.

The 6-foot-3 senior guard scored the Cougars' final 8 points of the third quarter as part of an 11-0 run that broke open a 39-all tie.

"They really did a nice job pressuring us," Sotos said. "We had to work for each shot, particularly in the second half, for us to be able to win this game."

Libertyville (0-3) pushed the reigning MSL champs and Class 4A Elite Eight qualifier most of the night. Six-foot-7 junior guard Drew Peterson kept the Cats close, making three of his six 3s in the first quarter, after which Libertyville trailed 19-17.

After cutting an 8-point deficit to 3 (at 33-30) at the half, Peterson (game-high 25 points) drained his fifth 3 of the night to even the contest at 33 just 34 seconds into the second half.

The third quarter, the last tie came with 3:09 left as 6-3 junior forward Riley Gowen had back-to-back baskets to make it 39-39.

That set up Conant's decisive spurt, which got started with Danny Ranallo feeding Mike Downing for a go-ahead score 25 seconds later.

"I told our kids at halftime how frustrating it was to see us not have patience in both our shot selection as well as how we were defending them," said 32nd-year Conant coach Tom McCormack. "We were able to be more patient and balanced in the second half as well as stringing together some stops that made the difference for us."

For Peterson, whose sixth 3 got the Wildcats within single digits for the final time at 54-46 with 3:20 to go, Libertyville's first foray into this tournament (they've been at Maine West the past few years) has been a great way for his team to start its season.

"We've played three very good teams thus far," Peterson said. "Overall this will benefit us as we go into our new (North Suburban) conference later this season."

McCormack, too, appreciates the level of competition his team is seeing.

"The quality here is so talented, and with the addition of Libertyville and Evanston (Friday night's opponent) you know that you will be tested for five nights in a row," he said.

Conant's 6-9 junior center Ryan Davis finished with a team-high 22 points and 11 rebounds. Sotos had 21, including 9-for-11 at the foul line.

"Wow -- we won this game by 18," said Sotos. "You could have fooled me."

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