Conant's defense clamps down on Hoffman Estates
Host Conant emerged victorious 40-36 on opening night of Mid-Suburban West boys basketball action Friday over previously undefeated Hoffman Estates by establishing tempo control of the game and slowing down a Hoffman squad that entered the contest averaging 63 points a game in building a 4-0 start to its young season.
"I think our playing pressure defense slowed them down on the offensive end," Conant sophomore Center Camden Lathos said. "(It) really helped us out especially with ball reversals. Our coach always has this saying, 'What's next?' to no matter what (to) move onto the next play."
That mentality carried the Cougars after seeing the lead which they held most of the evening temporarily lost after a D.J. Wallace (12 points, 9 rebounds, 3 blocks) putback capped a 6-0 run that put the Hawks (4-1, 0-1) ahead 33-32 with 2:54 left.
However, just seven ticks later, sophomore Yusuf Cisse (8 points) got the home team (4-1, 1-0) the lead back for good on a quick drive to the hoop that ended up being a 3-point play good for a 35-33 lead.
Lathos' third 3-pointer of the night then followed to expand the Conant advantage to 38-33 with 1:47 left.
Hoffman still had an opportunity to come back thanks to Conant's trials at the free-throw line where it went 2-for-9 in the final 64 seconds of regulation, but the Hawks struggled, going just 1-of-7 from the floor including a pair of 3-point attempts from Darien Irvin, the last one coming with 20 seconds left before Cisse's second free throw make iced the game for the Cougars eight seconds later.
Lathos led all scorers with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and a pair of blocks followed by senior Michael Sheehy with 9 points.
After the game, an emotional Conant coach Matt Walsh, a 1993 Conant all-conference player, reflected on his return to being a head coach on the Perry Gym home floor he once played on.
"I did have some butterflies before the game. My wife (Angie) reminded me to take a moment to try and put it in perspective," Walsh said. "I started coming to Conant basketball games in the 80s. I played here, coached feeder basketball, freshman ball, sophomore ball, (was a) varsity assistant. It was exciting, it was special. The five years I spent at Schaumburg were awesome. I loved every second of it and wouldn't trade it for the world. I was lucky to have that opportunity. (But) Conant is home to me. I am so happy."