Rolling Meadows holds off Hoffman Estates in regional final
Foster Ogbonna, Tsvet Sotirov, and Ian Miletic are not everyday names on the tip of Rolling Meadows' fans tongues.
But the three underclassmen all played key roles in the Mustangs' 59-56 win at Hoffman Estates Friday night the Class 4A boys basketball regional final.
With the win the Mustangs broke a 21-year regional championship drought that now propels them to the Glenbrook South sectional against New Trier Wednesday night.
Rolling Meadows, the No. 3 seed, lost to the No. 2 Trevians 60-56 on Jan. 29 at Loyola High School.
"It is what you would expect in a regional championship," said Rolling Meadows coach Kevin Katovich. "Give Hoffman Estates a lot of credit. They had a great season. Many people thought that they were overrated. They are well-coached, they play hard, and their kids just never quit."
Orlando Thomas, who would score 13 points and grab 4 rebounds, gave the Mustangs (28-5) the lead for good with a 3-pointer at the 42-second mark of the second quarter. Thomas would follow with a free throw that gave Rolling Meadows a 25-22 halftime lead as the Mustangs used a 7-2 run to finish the second quarter.
After Hoffman's Darien Irvin scored on a putback basket to cut the lead to 25-24, Miletic hit a 3-pointer, Mark Nikolich-Wilson made 2 free throws and converted from underneath for a 32-24 lead.
Mike Vukovic kept the Hawks (24-7) in the game by scoring 6 of his team-high 15 points and trailed 40-34 at quarter's end. Nick Vukovic scored 14 points for Hoffman.
Sotirov's 3 with 6 minutes left in the game gave Rolling Meadows a 47-38 lead.
Ogbonna (8 points, 6 rebounds) stopped a 6-0 run by the Hawks with a basket at the 4:10 mark.
Ogbonna rebounded a missed free throw on a two shot foul by Nikolich-Wilson, who returned the favor seconds later when he assisted Ogbonna's basket for a 53-48 lead.
"The second half I just let the game come to me," said Ogbonna. "I didn't rush my shot and I played solid defense. I just played my role. There are many different things I can do to fulfill my role on the floor like getting steals and rebounds."
"When Foster, Tsvet, and Ian contribute like that we're hard to beat. Foster was just huge all night. This was truly, truly a team effort tonight," said Katovich. "We had to try to limit the touches for the 3s by the Vukovics."
Cameron Christie (10 points, 5 rebounds) scored on a floater in the lane with 2:10 left and the Mustangs led 55-49.
DJ Wallace, who scored 7 of his 9 points in the final quarter, scored and Irvin hit 2 free throws as the Hawks closed to within 55-53 with 1:11 left.
The Hawks had two chances to tie the game but missed under the basket and then turned the ball over.
Christie scored with 26 seconds remaining and Thomas hit 2 free throws before Luka Sparavolo made a 3-pointer with .3 left for Hoffman.
Hoffman Estates coach Peter McBride was very proud of his team's play and its defense.
"For the most part we contained Christie and Thomas," said McBride. "I couldn't be prouder of our kids. This was their best effort of the year. It was a true testament of these kids laying it all on the line. They set the tone of what we want to accomplish for the future. We lost to a great team."