West Chicago edges Elgin for 1st UEC win
West Chicago sophomore guard Hudson Parker claimed he didn't hear the four words that altered the momentum of Tuesday's game.
But junior guard Ayden Russo did, along with most of the sparse crowd in attendance at venerable Chesbrough Field House in Elgin.
"Get it to him."
With the score tied early in the fourth quarter, West Chicago coach Bill Recchia barked out those words to Parker to swing the ball to a wide open Russo on the wing.
Two seconds later, Russo received the ball, drilling a pivotal 3-pointer to fuel West Chicago to a 49-42 win over Elgin in Upstate Eight Conference play.
Russo calmly drilled the key 3-pointer, helping give the Wildcats (3-12, 1-5) a 42-39 lead with 5:02 left. The Maroons (3-13, 0-8) built a 38-34 lead early in the fourth before Russo's 3-pointer sparked a late scoring spree in favor of the Wildcats.
After not playing since Dec. 30 and holding just one practice, the Wildcats welcomed the comeback win -- and first conference victory. Russo finished with 8 points, hitting two 3-pointers in the second half. Parker scored all 8 of his points in the final two quarters, while James Kostomiris paced the Wildcats with 16 points.
"I heard coach and we're running that 23 offense, and when Hudson drives, (my defender) drops and I just get my feet in position and knock it down," Russo said. "That's my job. This win feels good. I'm proud of the guys. It's all big picture. We're going to keep improving and get better each game, but nice to get under win under our belts and build some confidence. Hopefully, this win leads to a domino effect for the rest of the season and we keep compounding on this win and improving. We'll see where we will go."
Said Parker of the Russo's game-changing 3-pointer: "I don't think I heard coach, but (Ayden) was open."
Parker, a transfer from Wheaton North, iced the victory by hitting 2 free throws with 12.1 seconds left to make it a two-possession game.
"I was just trying to knock the free throws, like in practice," Parker said. "Hopefully, we can keep going with this. We're getting better."
Recchia said his players showed some resolve after a rough third quarter, plus not getting sufficient practice time since their last game.
"We put ourselves in a hole in the third quarter, but they didn't panic and trusted the process," Recchia said. "They showed a lot of trust in each other and getting a win for their efforts."
The Maroons played strong in the first and third quarters, but couldn't sustain the quality play over the entire game. Elgin erased a 4-point halftime deficit by scoring 11 quick points to seize a 30-26 lead following a basket by Skyler Chen. Micah Giovenco (9 points) hit two free throws, added a 3-pointer and a layup to account for 7 of the 11 points. The Maroons were held to 10 points in the final 12 minutes to spoil a big night from Angel Nunez (16 points, 3 3-pointers).
"We improved a lot, and as a coach, that's all you can ask," Elgin coach Todd Allen said. "It stinks not pulling out the win. We made some little mistakes and missed some free throws. But our whole team played well and everybody showed effort and played hard. We have to build on this game."