Rolling Meadows outlasts Wheeling in OT
Box this one up between Rolling Meadows and Wheeling and use it for an example of how exciting high school boys basketball can be.
With two of the biggest scorers in the league on the floor, both teams went to box-and-one defenses to limit the opportunities of high scoring Max Christie of Meadows (11 points) and Wheeling's Michael Best (13 points).
It led to a thrilling 52-49 Mid-Suburban East overtime win on Friday night by the visiting Mustangs but not before the Wildcats missed three 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds, including one at the buzzer.
"That was a heck of a high school basketball game, for sure," said Wheeling coach Michael O'Keeffe after neither team led by more than 3-points in the final 19 minutes.
"This was quite a high school game," echoed Mustangs boss Kevin Katovich. "Just a great game. Like the old cliché, it's a shame someone had to lose."
Wheeling senior Brandon Zettek made sure his team didn't lose in regulation when he took a pass in the final seconds from Cade Zaleski and fired home a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to send the game to OT tied at 42-42.
Then Meadows' Jonah Ogunsanya made sure he didn't let his team lose in overtime.
The junior guard, who hit four clutch free throws in the final 34 seconds of regulation, hit the big 3-pointer from deep in the corner that gave Meadows the lead for good at 50-47 in OT.
It came just moments after Wheeling's Jeremy Kim hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at 47-47.
In addition to his clutch scoring, Ogunsanya (12 points) also went the majority of the game following Christie in the box-and-one.
"I thought Jonah was really clutch for us," Katovich said. "What a game for him. Not only was he the main guy boxing Best but the big shots he hit down the stretch really did it for us."
Two free throws by Best got the Wildcats (8-16, 1-8) back to 50-49 with 52 seconds left but Christie hit a pair of free throws with 26 second left for the 52-49 lead.
"We just came through," said Ogunsanya about the Mustangs' second overtime win this week. "They hit a lot of big shots but we kept our composure and executed. It was a strange game. It was different because Best, he's their star player, and he had a little bit of quiet game, and Christie for us had a little bit of a quiet game.
"Both teams had to have other guys step up, and they did."
Brandon Zuniga stepped up with a 3-pointer that gave Meadows (13-10, 5-4) the biggest lead of the game at 21-14. A 3-pointer by Daniel Sobkowicz (13 points) sent the visitors to the locker room leading 24-18.
But Kim (14 points) fired home one of his four 3-pointers to make it 24-21 early in the second half and neither team would lead by more than 3 points the rest of the way.
"We've seen the box and one pretty much every game," said Katovich, who also got 6 points from Danny Fallon off the bench. "We're getting better at it. We've still got work to do on it. Max (Christie, who came back from a thigh injury this week) obviously isn't 100 percent but he really gutted it out."
O'Keeffe received a stellar job from Solomon Hudson, who chased Christie all night in the box-and-one.
"Solomon Hudson did a heck of a job face-guarding Max Christie," O'Keeffe said. "I think he might be the best on-ball defender in the MSL and he's only a sophomore. So once we start developing his offensive skill set he's going to be really good. He played his tail off."
Zettek scored all 13 of his points in the second half, including three 3-pointers.
"I thought Brandon Zettek was phenomenal in the second half," O'Keeffe added. "And I thought they really slowed down Michael (Best) early but we made a few adjustments at half to set a lot of double and triple screens to free him up."
O'Keefe said the Wildcats have faced gimmick defenses on Best in the past.
"In my opinion, he is the second best player in the MSL East behind Christie," O'Keeffe said. "We went a lot of box-and-one the first time against Meadows and I think we gave up 69 points. So we really didn't execute the way we wanted to that time.
"So all the credit in the world goes to these kids. They take every word we say to them like its 100 percent truth and they executed the game plan on Max Christie. We really limited his touches and made him take tough shots.
"Credit their kids, too. Jonah had some big shots and big free throws."