Conant hustles past Wheaton North in season opener
Do not let Conant get a loose ball.
Early in its game against Wheaton North on Monday, there was a loose ball on the floor, and no one went to grab it. Conant coach Matt Walsh let his team hear about it. That wouldn't happen again for the rest of the game.
Wheaton North never led the game, but there were times when the Falcons had Conant on its heels and reeling for some momentum. After a Jack Speers 3-pointer for the Falcons, the score was cut to one with about 2:40 left in the third quarter, but then about a minute later, Bradley Biedke sprawled out for a wandering ball.
The Cougars were fired up on the bench. Everyone was on their feet, and Walsh was lauding Biedke, the only sophomore on his roster. Next possession, junior Yusuf Cisse scored a layup, and on the following defensive possession, they recorded a blocked shot. Essentially game over after that one. Conant went on to win 53-45.
"Any good team's gonna gain energy from making hustle plays," Walsh said. "You know, we want to do it as much as anybody. It's hard to do."
Before there was even a thought that this game might come down to a mere loose ball, Conant had the bull by the horns, jumping off to an 11-0 run in the first quarter. Really, sometimes it just doesn't matter how good of a team you are, that's a tough lead to come back from.
But after outscoring Conant 13-6 in the second quarter, including a Speers 3-pointer at the second-quarter buzzer, Wheaton North demonstrated that it was going to do its best.
"Credit to Wheaton North," Walsh said. "They're a good team, well-coached, they play hard. We got off to a good lead, and they just kept fighting and coming back."
Such was the case again in the third quarter. The Falcons cut the lead to four. And then Speers hit another 3-pointer to cut it to one. But after two Conant scores and the ever-crucial Biedke loose ball, the Cougars left Wheaton North in the dust.
Walsh has exactly zero seniors on his team and was led by his army of juniors -- Monday night specifically by Camdon Lathos, the Cougars' returning top-scorer and rebounder. He finished with 13 points, and Yusuf Cisse, who paced the team's offense at point guard, finished with 12.
"I thought Yusuf Cisse was just incredible tonight," Walsh said. "He provides so much leadership for us, he just does so many things well, [and] Camden Lathos ... just oozes with potential."
Speers led all scorers with 19 for Wheaton North.