Energized Metea Valley blasts past Romeoville
Center Tess Thompson was on a collegiate rowing visit when Metea Valley lost to Romeoville back on Jan. 19.
The 6-foot-1 senior was in the lineup for Monday's rematch at the Class 4A Oswego regional quarterfinal, but the Mustangs didn't want to rely too heavily on her.
"We've been playing an all-around good team game," Metea Valley point guard Nazuri Whigham said. "We've playing with each other, making sure it's not a one-person game."
It wasn't. Thompson did have a significant impact, but that wasn't the only reason why the 16th-seeded Mustangs rolled to a 50-24 victory over 18th-seeded Romeoville.
Five players scored during a 17-0 run that gave Metea (11-17) an early 19-3 lead. Thompson wasn't one of them.
"We had Tess back and our energy was really high," Whigham said. "I think we came out with high intensity."
They sure did. Thompson scored the first basket of the game on a putback and finished with 8 points and 8 rebounds but she got a lot of help.
Whigham ran the offense masterfully, contributing 8 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, while Chloe Kurkjian and Jada Samuels shared game-high scoring honors with 9 points apiece. Kurkjian adding 3 assists and 3 steals for the Mustangs, who face No. 2 seed Oswego in Wednesday's semifinals.
Whigham scored 5 points during the decisive run, while Kurkjian added 3 points, Paige Buranosky scored and Samuels, who came off the bench, drained the first of her three 3-pointers.
"Our plan was to attack the gaps against their defense because they wanted to stop the 3," Samuels said. "So we planned on getting it inside."
Once it went inside, the Spartans (9-19) collapsed on Thompson, who proved adept at passing it back to the perimeter. The Mustangs whipped it around and found plenty of open shots. Samuels made 3 of her 5 attempts from the behind the arc.
"The passes were there, but that's usually my spot on the team," Samuels said. "Shooting is my thing."
Routing opponents hasn't been Metea's thing in recent years. The wins the Mustangs get are usually pretty competitive. But they enjoyed smooth sailing against Romeoville, which shot 2 for 20 in the first half.
The Mustangs led 21-9 at halftime and scored the first 7 points of the third quarter on a pullup jumper from Buranosky, a 3 from Whigham and a transition layup from Thompson.
"We were due for one," said Metea coach Cedric Williams, whose team had lost 10 of its last 12 games. "We moved the ball around on offense, executed well.
"We tried to mix up our defense a little bit, tried to trap on the wings a little bit and in the corners. At times it was up and down in terms of execution, but I think we finished strong at the end."
Samuels, a varsity rookie, doesn't want the season to end anytime soon.
"I think (the playoff win) means a lot because we get to make up for the losses that we had in the beginning of the season," Samuels said. "It's good that we were doing better in this game than we did before and it was win or go home. No one wants to end the season on a loss."