Both boys basketball teams, both coaches, saw progress in Glenbard East's 75-63 win over West Chicago on Thursday.
Hosting the Upstate Eight Valley game in Lombard, the Rams scored a season high as senior forward Korvante Davis' 24 points led three teammates in double figures. Better still, Glenbard East finished strongly, and that hasn't always been the case.
"I thought we kind of battled some demons tonight as far as that goes," said Ram coach Scott Miller. "We've been struggling with the lead and taking care of the ball late in the game. I thought we took care of it, I thought we made some free throws, we rebounded better. It was all good."
A strong finish was required because West Chicago turned a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter into a three-possession game in the fourth.
In addition to usual go-to guys Jason Gimre, Sam Ricci and Jordan Wilkins each scoring at least 12 points, sophomore Raed Haroon came off the bench for three 3-pointers and a team-high 15 points.
"The kids played their tails off, especially that second half," said Wildcats coach Bill Recchia. "It was a 14-point halftime deficit, we outscored them in the second half and played our tails off in the second half. The kids have nothing to hang their heads about."
Glenbard East (7-9, 2-2) forced 8 first-quarter turnovers and the sleek Davis scored 12 points to start the flow, which despite Haroon's three 3-pointers created a 44-30 Rams halftime lead.
"I just decided, I've got to be one of the guys to score," said Davis, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. "Coach asked me to score a lot and I just came out there and did what I had to do."
Glenbard East's Jared Rech and 6-4 James Peterkin helped push the lead to 58-41 at 2:27 of the third quarter, but West Chicago (6-9, 0-4) scored the next 10 points. A pair of Ricci putbacks and a Wilkins 3 had the Wildcats within 67-60 with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter.
"We had them down a couple times where I thought we could have put them away and we couldn't do it. That's a credit to them," Miller said.
In a credit to the Rams, they closed the game on an 8-3 run. It began with Kenny Adams' alley-oop pass for a Davis lay in and ended with free throws by Davis and Alijah Nelson, who scored 15 points. Adams added 12 as did Peterkin, who also claimed 9 rebounds, 5 offensive.
"A lot of games have been let go, like in overtime, we didn't execute down the stretch," Nelson said. "But this game we executed and we made big plays and I think that's going to help us in other games coming up."