New-look Cougars close MSL West with win

By Howard Schlossberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/16/2018 11:52 PM

A little bit of restyling appears to have gone a long way for Conant's boys basketball team.

The Cougars unleashed a series of tightly run sets on offense and a suffocating zone on defense, and that carried them to a fairly bump-free 60-40 Mid-Suburban West-closing victory on Friday night at Hoffman Estates.

The newly-styled offense works inside out from 6-foot-10 Ryan Davis and enables open looks and opportunities for just about everyone else, coach Jim Maley and forward Raj Mittal said after the game.

"They double- and triple-team Ryan, and that opens up opportunities for other guys," said Mittal, who scored 20 point on a series of slashes to the basket against Hoffman's man-to-man defense and was the beneficiary, as he noted, of unselfish, court-aware Davis dishing to him among others.

"We did a good job of executing our sets tonight," said head coach Jim Maley whose club moved to 19-7 overall and finished MSL West play in third place at 6-4. "I think we've gotten a lot better."

The Cougars looked playoff-ready Friday night. Their defense carried them to a 29-15 halftime edge as Davis blocked three shots anchoring Conant's 3-2 zone. He scored 9 points and made life miserable for Hawks' shooters (5-for-23 in the first half).

With Hoffman making a run in the second half on the perimeter shooting of Rudra Patel, James Allen and Sheldon Barnett Morales, Conant's Jonathan Koley came off the bench to hit a 3-pointer, Davis continued unstoppable inside and Mittal closed out a 9-point third quarter for himself on a conversion of a feed from Scott McColaugh.

That turned an 8-point edge into a 15-point bulge at quarter's end as the Cougars declared themselves ready for the postseason.

"We've just got to put together four good quarters (in the playoffs)," Maley said. "We're starting to get hot."

Hoffman coach Luke Yanule saw the same. While his team failed to hit the open looks it generated against Conant's zone, he looked at Davis and declared him a future all-stater.

"If he's not, there should be an investigation," Yanule said.

But he liked his own team's hustle and approach, knowing there aren't that many Ryan Davis-types guarding the rim in their playoff future.

"I liked our focus," Yanule added. "We just didn't make our shots. And (Davis) is just really hard for us to guard."

Mittal is looking forward, too.

"We have a shot to go far," said the Conant senior.

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