Deerfield's fourth quarter does in Mundelein
After falling behind No. 5 seed Deerfield 14-3 early in the second quarter, it looked like it was going to be a very tough game for No. 4 Mundelein Friday night in the Class 4A Wheeling boys basketball regional championship game.
And while the Mustangs certainly put up a good battle with plenty of chances to cut into the Warriors' lead, they never could get over the hump as they never led in the contest.
In the end, Deerfield (21-10) captured a 54-44 victory over Mundelein (20-12) as the Warriors advanced to the Waukegan sectional semifinals Tuesday against Stevenson at 7 p.m.
The game was a classic defensive struggle for over a half as the Mustangs went on a 9-point run to cut Deerfield's lead to 19-16 early in the third quarter.
The teams played to a 9-9 tie in the third quarter as the Warriors took a 28-23 lead into the decisive fourth quarter.
That is when the game basically turned into a shootout with Deerfield building its biggest lead of the game at 44-31 when Dan Golub scored on an assist by Walter Mattingly (team-high 17 points) with 2:55 to play.
A very rare 4-point play by Mundelein sophomore Conor Enright (team-high 17 points) cut the lead to 48-38 with 1:03 remaining. But Deerfield's Dimitri Bousis responded with a 3-point play for a 51-38 lead moments later, and the Warriors were on their way to sectionals.
Sophomore Jack Bikus hit double figures with 11 points for the Mustangs, but 6-foot-8 sophomore teammate Scottie Ebube was held to just 5 points by the Warriors' very tall and tenacious defense. Mundelein and Ebube also struggled from the foul line hitting just 6-for-18 (33 percent) overall.
"They're a good team we knew that coming in, and they make a lot of things difficult with their size," said Mundelein coach Matt Badgley, whose team beat Deerfield by two points at home in November. "But I'm just really proud of our kids for battling, and we just needed to get the stops and have things fall in the right place."
Mundelein got as close as 38-31 on a 3-pointer by Enright with 4:43 to go. But once again Deerfield responded strongly at both ends of the court to maintain a fairly comfortable lead.
Six-foot-nine Deerfield senior Jackson Kenyon played a key role with all 11 of his points, including three 3-pointers, during a span of just 2:58 from late in the third quarter to early in the fourth quarter as his last trey made the score 34-23 with 7:10 left.
"It was a sloppy game, but that's how most of our games have been so we just had to do what we needed to do to get the win," said Mattingly. "We knew we had to stop (Ebube and Enright) to get the win because those were their two leading scorers."
Deerfield's Ara Emerzian added 9 points while Nolan Their scored 6 points coming off the bench for the Mustangs. Bousis also scored 6 points.
"We've come a long way. We started the year 0-4, and I can't speak more highly of what our three senior captains have done to lead our team," said Deerfield coach Dan McKendrick, whose team outscored Mundelein 26-21 in the fourth quarter. "We just wanted to make sure 44 (Ebube) and Enright earned everything they got. They had to work for everything, and ultimately that was the key to our success."
With three sophomore starters coming back, Badgley is still very optimistic.
"It's hard (for Ebube) when you have a bunch of trees you have to shoot through, other guys had to step up," Badgley said. "He (Ebube) is clearly a large talent and a huge part of our young lineup along with Enright and Bikus."