Conant comes up just short vs. undefeated Lemont
In Monday's opening round of the 48th Annual Jack Tosh Holiday Classic, Lemont struggled offensively before coming away with a 37-28 win over Downers Grove South.
On Tuesday, Lemont had a chance to get back on its normal track in the second round against Conant, which beat Andrew, 58-42, in Monday's first round.
Early on, it looked like they would do just that, as Matas Castillo hit his first three 3-point attempts and helped Lemont to a 17-11 lead at the end of the first quarter. The defenses took over after that on both sides, though, and Lemont held on to come away with a 42-39 win and remain unbeaten at 12-0.
"I told the guys after the game that we have to get used to different styles of play," Lemont coach Rick Runaas said. "That's the good thing about these tournaments. We see teams we wouldn't normally see and they play different styles than we are used to.
"Good teams have to find ways to win by playing different ways, and we were able to find a way to win tonight."
Conant (7-4) got out quickly, scoring on baskets by Yousuf Cisse (9 points) and Shreyas Talluri (6 points). Lemont countered with a 3-pointer by Matas Castillo and, after another basket by Talluri, Rokas Castillo hit a 3-pointer, then converted a steal into a layup for an 8-6 Lemont lead. Matas Castillo followed with another 3-pointer, then assisted on a 3-pointer by Ryan Runaas and hit his final trey to give Lemont a 17-8 lead. The Cougars, though, ended the quarter with a bucket by Isaiah Rhodes and a free throw by Cisse.
"My shot felt good early, so I kept shooting," said Matas Castillo, who led all scorers with 17 points. My teammates did a good job of setting screens and finding me when I was open.
"They [Conant] did a pretty good job of slowing us down and made it hard for us to get into our sets. It's nice to know that we can win tight games like this."
Conant scored the first five points of the second quarter, getting its lone 3-pointer of the game by Camden Lathos (9 points) and a pair of free throws by Austin Potocnic to pull to within 17-16. Rokas Castillo (15 points) hit 2 of 3 free throws, which were answered by a basket by Conant's Bradley Biedke (8 points). Matas Castillo and Deividas Bilevicius then sandwiched a bucket each around a score by Lathos to send Lemont into intermission with a 23-20 lead.
Conant continued to stay with Lemont through the early going of the third quarter, then took their first lead since 6-3 on a steal and layup by Cisse and a basket by Biedke to move ahead 29-28 with 4:15 to play in the third. Another basket underneath by Biedke gave the Cougars a 31-28 lead. Rokas Castillo then assisted on a basket by Miles Beachum, then hit a pair of free throws with 11.2 seconds left to put Lemont ahead 32-31. After a steal, Matas Castillo scored right before the third-quarter buzzer.
Defense was tight on both sides in the fourth, and Conant took a 35-34 lead on a basket by Lathos with 4:22 remaining. Matas Castillo, though, drove the left side for a basket, then went down the middle of the lane for another, to give Lemont a 38-35 lead. Rokas Castillo was then 4 for 4 from the free-throw line down the stretch to keep the Cougars at bay.
"Their quick start hurt us," Conant coach Matt Walsh said. "Everybody knows those two guards are talented, but we let them get some confidence and dug ourselves a hole.
"Overall, though, I was proud of the way our kids fought back and battled. We don't have a senior on the roster, so we really learned a lot from this game and will get better. Lemont is undefeated and ranked for a reason. That's why we love this tournament. Every team you play is a great team and is a challenge."
Although the Castillo twins combined for 32 of Lemont's 42 points, they proved that they are anything but a two-man show.
"Everyone knows their roles on this team and they take pride in them," Runaas said. "In a close game like this, every basket is important. A 3-pointer by Conor Murray in the third quarter was big, the 3-pointer by Ryan [Runaas] was big, a basket by Deividas was big. When games are close like this, everyone needs to play their role, and those baskets add up."