Conant guard Danny Ranallo may not get quite the same attention or accolades as backcourt mate Jimmy Sotos, but if you asked their coach the things he does are just as important to the Cougars' success the past couple of seasons.
On Tuesday afternoon, those same were hugely important as the 5-foot-11 senior's only 5 points of the game helped Conant stave off a pesky Hinsdale South squad 53-46 in second-round action at the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament at York High in Elmhurst.
"He helps settle us down as a team," Conant coach Tom McCormack said of Ranallo. "He makes good decisions with the basketball, which especially today worked out great for us."
"Whatever we need to do win," Ranallo said afterward. "I don't care if I score, or let alone take a shot. If I can make a pass, grab a loose ball, set a screen -- as long as we win is all that matters."
That mentality lifted the Cougars (11-2) from an early fourth-quarter tie that the Hornets (6-3) forced by erasing 12-point second-period and 9-point third-quarter deficits.
Destin Talbert's putback tied it at 35 with 31 seconds gone in the final quarter.
That's when Conant's big guns produced. Sotos got a driving layup off an intercepted pass with 7:04 left. Ryan Davis had a reverse layup with 6:39 remaining and connected on back-to-back 3-point plays over the next minute to put the Cougars back ahead 41-35.
The game's decisive segment took place over each squad's next three possessions, during which each Hornets score was matched by a Cougar score that involved Ranallo.
First, after a Diamond Anderson free throw, Ranallo drained a 3 off of a Sotos feed for his first points of the night at the 4:29 mark, making it 44-36 Cougars. After 6-5 junior center Zion Griffin (11 points) connected on a pair of free throws to pull South back within 44-38, Ranallo drove inside for 2 with 3:52 remaining. Ranallo then fed Davis inside for 2 more.
"I received a nice pass from Jimmy on the 3 that I made," Ranallo said. "As far as the layup, I saw a lane open up for me and I was able to take advantage."
Sotos led both teams in scoring with 16, followed by Davis with 13. Conant next meets Brother Rice, a 37-32 winner over Sandburg on Tuesday, in a 3:30 p.m. Wednesday quarterfinal at Campbell Gym.
Hinsdale South will face Sandburg in winner's bracket action at 3 p.m. in York's South Gym. The Hornets were led led by guards Nick Perry (14 points) and Karol Lipiszko, who along with Griffin scored 11.
"I was really proud of the way we battled back after being down early," Hinsdale South coach Brett Moore said. "It can be tough but we were able to remain composed, which allowed us to try some things differently on both sides of the ball which hopefully will give us some opportunities for the remainder of this tournament and the second half of the season."