Enright sped up Mundelein's acceleration
About the time Conor Enright and his Mundelein basketball teammates planned on picking up a school-history-making trophy, along came an attempted pick-me-up.
"One of my teammates texted in our group chat, 'We should have just won a sectional championship,' " Enright said. "I think we all felt it a little bit."
Downer, for everyone.
Instead, Enright, who was hanging out with other teammates 24 hours after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the season, could only wonder what would have happened last Friday night. Mundelein would have played Stevenson, which beat the Mustangs by a combined 4 points in two North Suburban Conference games, in the Class 4A Prospect sectional final.
Senior-laden Stevenson (28-4) vs. junior-laden Mundelein (30-4). Four Stevenson seniors, each of whom started on varsity for at least two years, were denied an opportunity to advance to the supersectional for the second year in a row.
All season long, Mundelein's starting five featured juniors Enright, Scottie Ebube, Jack Bikus, Trey Baker and Syam Atade.
"Throughout the year we didn't really think about it much," Enright said. "But when it really did end, it hit me, at least, and I'm pretty sure it hit most of the other guys the same, that we got one more year to do it. The seniors were an important piece of the team. Everyone was. Everyone played a great role, but the majority are back with 12 of the 15 guys."
Most importantly for Mundelein, its point guard and leader will be back.
Enright is the captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area team after steering the Mustangs to a school-record win total, after coach Matt Badgley beefed up his team's schedule. Mundelein was seeking its first sectional championship in school history.
Not that the Mustangs' success surprised themselves.
Before the season, Badgley ran a team meeting.
"We predicted our record," Enright said. "We predicted 27-4, before playoffs."
The Mustangs finished the regular season 27-4. They predicted they would split their NSC series against Stevenson and Zion-Benton, and lose twice in their first trip to downstate Collinsville over break. Mundelein swept Z-B, lost only once downstate (to the host school in the title game) and fell to Glenbrook South in an MLK matinee at Lake Zurich.
"The coaches sat around and talked [after the preseason meeting]," Badgley said. "We were like, 'Wow. Whew. That (27-4 record) is pretty ambitious.' "
"They weren't doubting us," Enright said. "But we were proving them wrong and proving to everyone else that, even though we're all juniors, we're still a strong team."
Mundelein's three-year varsity guard/repeat all-area selection, might still be getting better after a campaign in which he averaged 14.5 points and 6 assists per game. He was named NSC player of the year, showing off volleyball-line range on his jumper and Porsche acceleration to the rim.
"I thought he really committed hard to the weight room," Badgley said. "He was so much stronger this year. I had hoped that we could get deeper and get more playing-time for every guy, and get (Conor's) minutes down. We ended up not doing that because, with his endurance, he could handle it."
Since he was a skinny freshman running the offense for Badgley, the 6-foot-2, 166-pound Enright says he's put on 26 pounds and grown nearly two inches. Basketball is the only sport he plays for MHS, and he could not be more committed.
"When I'm not quarantined," joked Enright, who's still 16, "I'll go to the gym like six times a week and work hard with Pick (assistant coach Chris Pickens) or shoot by myself. Or I'll work outside [shooting in the family driveway] when it's nice out."
The youngest of two sons of Kevin, who played football and basketball at St. Viator, and Stephanie, who's run marathons, Enright is verbally committed to Drake University. He's far from satisfied as a Mustang.
"Personally, I want to win the conference, because I don't think Mundelein has won it in 26 years," Enright said. "I obviously want to go downstate, but first I got to win a sectional."