Rolling Meadows takes care of Wheeling
The Wheeling boys basketball team always plays tough defense, especially on their home court.
So it was extra-important for visiting Rolling Meadows to get off to a good start Friday night, and Orlando Thomas made sure the Mustangs did just that.
Thomas, a 6-foot sophomore guard, came off the bench to score 13 first-quarter points to help stake Meadows to a big lead.
The Mustangs won the Mid-Suburban East contest 66-51.
"He's been playing really well in practice, and just getting better and better," said Meadows coach Kevin Katovich of Thomas. "He's a sophomore, and it takes some time to adjust to varsity -- but I'd say he's adjusted."
Junior Max Christie led the Mustangs with a game-high 23 points, while Jaden Terrell scored 15 for Wheeling.
"We shot the heck out of the ball tonight," said Wildcats coach Michael O'Keeffe. "Unfortunately we also had about 20 turnovers, and when you have that many turnovers, it's hard to beat any team let alone a well-prepared team like Meadows."
Thomas entered the game midway through the first period, hit a quick 3-pointer, then had a steal and layup moments later. And when the sophomore ended his flurry of scoring with another bucket at the one-minute mark of the initial stanza, Meadows led 22-12.
"The team was feeding me," said Thomas, who had 18 points. "I was getting open shots -- they (Wheeling) were focusing on Max, and when that happens somebody else has to step up and I was able to do that tonight."
Christie scored 12 of his points in the second period as Meadows (17-7, 8-1) built a 25-point halftime lead and the visitors kept adding on.
Led by a terrific final two quarters from junior guard Daniel Sobkowicz (6 points, 7 rebounds), the Mustangs took a 66-36 advantage early in the fourth.
"Sobko is playing very well," said Katovich. "He had some back issues earlier in the year but now he's healthy. He's a very experienced player and he's got that football experience so he's used to being in big games and big environments."
Down by 30, Wheeling played a stellar fourth quarter. The Wildcats (12-15, 2-7) went on a 15-0 run in the final 5 minutes of the game to cut the deficit in half.
Christian McLaughlin scored 13 points for Wheeling while Javen Reid added 12.
"I give a lot of credit to our kids," said O'Keeffe. "They're doing a really great job of taking the coaching and things are starting to click, and that's exciting to see. It took a little longer than we were hoping but at least we're clicking late better than never."
"At times tonight we looked like a team that belonged on the court against Meadows, which is one of the top teams in our conference and in the area. But at other times we just were making some questionable decisions with the ball against their pressure, and that came back to really hurt us."
Freshman Cameron Christie had 11 points for Meadows.
"This was a huge game," said Thomas. "We're hopeful to win the MSL (this season), so we needed to improve our record and keep pace with Buffalo Grove.".