Meadows dumps Lake Forest, will meet Glenbard West in Tosh semis
Championship caliber basketball teams will hang their hat on defense.
The Rolling Meadows boys basketball team gives up 44 points on defense on average.
That convincing number was close to the mark Wednesday afternoon when Meadows dispatched highly regarded Lake Forest 54-49 in the quarterfinals of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York High School.
The 12-1 Mustangs will take on unbeaten Glenbard West at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the semifinals.
Rolling Meadows has now won 28 of its last 29 games.
"Everything we do revolves around defense," said RM guard Orlando Thomas, who scored 14 points and pulled down 7 rebounds. "In practice we go harder on defense than we do in games. Communication, stops, and rebounding. I was proud of all my teammates tonight."
Rolling Meadows needed that strong defensive effort to get by the Scouts.
A steadily improving Mark Nikolich-Wilson was the cornerstone of a comeback after the Mustangs trailed 28-21 at halftime.
Nikolich-Wilson used his height and strength to muscle in 2 offensive rebounds and then score another basket that pulled Rolling Meadows to within 29-27 early in the third quarter. It was the momentum changer Rolling Meadows needed.
Cameron Christie began to warm up in the third quarter, scoring 9 of his 20 points after scoring just 4 in the first half.
Trailing 45-39 going into the fourth quarter the Mustangs applied the brakes to the Scouts' (9-3) offense.
Lake Forest would score only 4 free throws in the quarter.
"We really stepped up in the quarter," said Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich. "Foster Ogbonna did a great job holding down Asa Thomas as did some of the other players. We couldn't let him catch and shoot 3s. We wanted him to put the ball on the floor."
"When they started pressuring us it really slowed our offense down," said Thomas.
"Their man defense kept us from getting into our sets," said Lake Forest coach Phil LaScala. "I think we started to run out of gas a little bit. That 30 (Nikolich-Wilson) killed us on the boards. They got the rebounds when they needed them."
Nikolich-Wilson, who pulled down 12 rebounds including 9 offensive, put the Mustangs ahead for good with a sweet move under the basket at the 3:06 mark for a 48-47 lead.
Christie hit on a short shot and then hit 2 free throws to build a 52-47 lead with 1:17 remaining.
The key rebounding battle saw the Mustangs with a 33-19 advantage.
"I had some moves that I had been using in practice and broke them out today," said Nikolich-Wilson. "It came with a lot of offseason work. It was good to capitalize on that work and use it to help change the game. We made the adjustments we needed to make and came out and executed them."
"Mark is becoming a big time player," said Thomas. "People talk about me and Cameron but Mark is right there with us."
Thomas, a highly-touted junior, scored 10 points. Tommy Aberle led Lake Forest with 17 points and Sam Gibson added 15 for the Scouts.