Metea Valley hangs with Waukegan
Waukegan and host Metea Valley provided something for everyone in Tuesday's boys basketball game.
Some run-and-gun, a couple dunks, key 3-pointers, a big early lead, a clutch rally and, despite the score, even a tiny bit of defense -- it was all there in Waukegan's 83-80 nonconference win over Metea Valley in Aurora.
Learning experiences, too.
"I learned that we can compete with anybody," said Metea junior guard Myles Leavy, who made four 3-pointers and scored 24 points to lead four Mustangs in double figures. "The game was intense going up and down, so if we bring it from the start we can compete with anybody."
That was one problem for Metea (9-9). Trapping the Mustangs on the wings, Waukegan (15-4) forced 5 early turnovers and literally raced out to a 15-4 lead.
Metea coach Matt Walpole countered with a 1-2-2 three-quarters-court press and directed the ball away from the sidelines, and the Mustangs moved within 23-19 after one quarter.
"We had multiple chances to go away," Walpole said. "We were kind of on the ropes, three separate times. And I love the fight in our kids. I was really proud of them scratching and clawing. But obviously you allow a team to score 83 points it's going to be difficult to be successful, plain and simple."
Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw later said he thought the Bulldogs were 14-0 when placing four players in double figures, the case Tuesday. Forward Ja'Veon Taylor threw down a couple dunks and led all players with 25 points, followed by speedy point guard Andre White with 18, Jordan Brown with 16 and Jaylin Cunningham with 15.
The Bulldogs led by 11 at one point of the second quarter, were up 65-56 after three quarters, led 81-69 with 2:31 left to play and 83-74 with 38.3 seconds remaining.
Leavy hit a left-corner 3 to pull within 83-77. After a timeout Metea applied a press. Ethan Helwig and Tahj Morgan converged for a steal, and Helwig swished a 3 from the top of the key to come within 83-80 with 11.6 seconds left.
"We needed a steal to come back in this game, so we took that, went out there, got a steal, hit a big shot, put us down 3. Timeout," said Metea senior guard Earnest Neal, who joined Helwig with 19 points. Morgan added 11.
White missed the first of a 1-and-1 free-throw opportunity with 9.8 seconds left but to his credit sprinted downcourt to poke the ball away from Metea. It rattled around until the horn sounded.
Ashlaw wanted this type of competition.
"We're going to have to play somebody that's not a personal grudge-match rivalry thing, and it'll be about the performance of our team, not about, We're going to get those guys because it's an age-old rivalry," he said. "So we built this game specifically into the schedule with that in mind -- on a Tuesday, bus ride, school the next day, versus somebody that's a little bit of an unknown."