Close call, as Warren hangs on against Mundelein
Warren's Branden Ellis has played varsity basketball against Mundelein's Tommy Marcotte since the two senior guards were sophomores.
So when Marcotte took a pass from freshman point guard Conor Enright just inside the top of the key and fired as the final buzzer sounded, Ellis thought the ball was going in the basket. Marcotte, after all, can fill up the hoop.
"I was boxing out (Andrew) Silva under the basket," Ellis said.
Marcotte's shot bounced on the rim but didn't drop in, and Warren survived, winning 44-43 in tightly contested North Suburban Conference game Tuesday night.
"I'm good friends with Tommy, so I'll probably talk to him," Ellis said after scoring a game-high 21 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
As Ellis was finishing his sentence, Marcotte walked by and patted his friend on the back. Marcotte said his final shot felt good when it left his hand.
"It just didn't fall," Marcotte said.
That summed up the second half for Mundelein (9-6, 2-2), which was coming off a tough loss to host Carmel the night before, while Warren (9-6, 3-1) was playing its first game since Dec. 30. Mundelein shot just 5 of 19 from the floor after halftime and scored just 15 points against the Blue Devils' ball-press zone.
"I don't know that we struggled against it," Mustangs coach Matt Badgley said. "We had a couple of bad passes that don't need to happen in some of the places that they happened. ... (Warren's ball press) slowed (the game) down. I like us being more patient, but (Warren) did a really good job of taking the middle away. We couldn't get the ball on the inside."
Warren coach Jon Jasnoch said his team didn't make any adjustments defensively after being down 28-24 at halftime. The visitors simply executed their ball press.
"We just did it better," Jasnoch said. "And (Mundelein's) shots didn't fall."
Mundelein's shots fell when the two teams played each other in the Mustangs' Thanksgiving tournament. In the second game of the season for both sides, on Nov. 21, Mundelein beat Warren 70-52.
"They would just pass it back and forth," Ellis said. "Their possessions would take a long time, which limited us on offense. So all week we practiced on pressuring them out in the corners to speed them up and try to get the game going faster."
Mundelein had a 15-7 lead -- the largest for either team the entire game -- early in the second quarter before Ellis and Barak Diehl ignited an 8-0 run to even the score. The flurry included an Ellis layup, Ellis tip-in, a layup by Diehl and breakaway dunk by Ellis. The latter two baskets came off midcourt steals.
From there, the game remained tight the rest of the way.
"I thought that little spurt in the second quarter was important," Jasnoch said. "It changes what you do offensively and defensively."
Warren led the entire fourth quarter after Ellis' pullup jumper broke a 37-37 tie with 6:31 left. The Blue Devils won despite an unforced turnover down the stretch and a missed 1-and-1 by Ellis with 10 seconds left.
Kyle Enright led Mundelein in scoring with 9 points on three 3-pointers in the opening half. James Willman had 8 points, Silva added 7 points and 9 rebounds, Conor Enright finished with 7 points, and Jeff Bikus contributed 6 points and 6 rebounds.
Warren got a lift from both Tavion McCarthy and Ian Schilling coming off the bench. The 5-foot-7 McCarthy scored 4 points and hustled for 6 rebounds. Schilling had a tip-in and 3-pointer late in the third as well as an assist to Jacob Rich on an inbounds play in the closing seconds of the quarter.
"McCarthy played great," Jasnoch said. "Schilling played really well too."