Wheeling dumps Elk Grove as Best reached 1,000

By John Bumbales
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/15/2019 11:20 PM
  • Michael Best

    Michael Best

Host Elk Grove kept battling back as the Grenadiers faced Wheeling on Senior Night Friday in the Mid-Suburban East boys basketball season finale for both squads.

But in the end, the Wildcats were able to pull away down the stretch behind a game-high 28 points from senior Michael Best as Wheeling posted a 64-54 victory over Elk Grove.

The Wildcats (10-17, 2-8) held their biggest lead at 56-41 on a steal and basket by Best with 3:27 to play. Best also hit a major milestone in the game as he surpassed the 1,000-point scoring plateau for his career.

The Grenadiers (5-22, 0-10) kept fighting until the end though as back-to-back 3-pointers by senior Sean Cherry (team-high 14 points) followed by a 3-pointer by junior teammate Devin McKinney cut the lead to 59-52 with 1:06 to play.

But that was as close as Elk Grove would get the rest of the way as the Wildcats were able to salt away the victory with 5-of-6 free throws in the final minute of the contest.

"I thought we had a great game, and our guys did a great job of fighting through adversity and clinching the win," said Best, who had 15 points at halftime. "It was a great team effort, and all of our guys played their roles really well."

Wheeling led 14-11 after one quarter before extending its lead to 33-24 at the intermission.

The Grens did cut the lead to just 38-35 on an inside basket by senior center Ryne Singsank (10 points) midway through the third quarter. But the Wildcats scored the final 6 points of the period to take a 44-35 advantage into the fourth quarter.

"Every time we kind of made it close we turned it over, and we've just got to be more solid with the basketball," said Elk Grove coach Nick Oraham, whose team also struggled at the foul line (8-for-15). "But Best is a really good player, he's tough to guard, and he gets to the rim."

Besides Best, Wheeling senior guard Jeremy Kim (13 points) really came to life in the fourth quarter as Kim scored 7 points in a row to give the Wildcats a 51-37 lead with 5:19 to play.

Wheeling senior Brandon Zettek also hit double figures in scoring with 11 points as did Elk Grove senior guard Ryley Rathman with 11 points. Sophomore Brandon Burns added 7 points for the Grenadiers while junior teammate Mark Matos chipped in 6 points.

Wheeling coach Michael O'Keefe couldn't have been happier with the performance of Best, and he is really impressed how his team has been playing in the 2019 part of the season.

"Michael has been outstanding for us since the day he walked into Wheeling High School, tonight he scored his 1,000th point, and he works for everything that he gets," said O'Keefe, whose team was 21-for-26 from the free throw line. "We have a good group of kids one through 12, we're 7-6 since the new year, and we're getting things rolling at the right time now."

Best wound up with five 3-pointers in the contest while Cherry had three 3-pointers before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.

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