It’s been written before, and surely will be written again.
Tom McCormack-led Conant squads consistently wear down their opponents, and Thursday night at Palatine was a textbook example.
While the Cougars admittedly struggled offensively, their persistence and relentlessness led to a key road triumph as Conant rallied from a 3-point fourth quarter deficit in claiming a 40-37 Mid-Suburban West victory.
“We have to work on our offense a little bit and start scoring more points,” said Conant center Kevin Schimel after his team shot 32 percent from the floor and turned the ball over 16 times. “(But) we played hard defense. That’s a Conant win.”
As has been their hallmark over the years, they did it by holding Palatine (12-11, 4-3) to 26 percent shooting and limiting the Pirates’ sophomore tandem of Roosevelt Smart and Chris Macahon to 19 combined points.
“One of the reasons we weren’t clicking is because they do such a good job defensively and stay after you,” said Palatine coach Eric Millstone, whose squad entered the game averaging nearly 57 points. “That’s why they’ve been good for as many years as they have been.”
In a game Palatine led most of the way, Conant (12-9, 4-3) went on an 8-0 run after Palatine’s Andy Macahon’s 2 free throws made it 30-27 with 4:06 remaining.
“Energy,” said Conant forward Robert Hudson. “In the fourth quarter, we knew we had to will our way to a win, collectively.”
Danny Sotos, who McCormack praised for his defense along with D’Angelo McBride, started the run with a free throw. Chris Dolce, playing in just his second varsity game since being called up from the sophomore squad, drilled a 3-pointer to give Conant the lead for good with 2:57 left.
And then it was Hudson, who scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, who capped the run with a layup off a beautiful feed from Kevin Copher before sinking 2 free throws for a 35-30 advantage with 1:58 left.
The Cougars were fortunate to have the contributions of the versatile Schimel, who hit 5 of his 6 first half shots including 3 3-pointers, while the rest of the team made just 1-of-10 in that span. Schimel scored 13 of his game-high 15 points in the opening half to help Conant to just a 2-point halftime deficit.
“He’s really dangerous on the perimeter, but if you come and get him, he can drive the ball, too,” McCormack said.
The outcome tightens the West race even more with the two teams now a game back of Fremd with Schaumburg and Barrington still to play tonight.
“We stayed in the thick of it and in the middle of the conference race,” McCormack said. “We just have to take it one game at a time from this point on.”
“That’ll be the fun part, to see how we come back and respond,” Millstone said. “We know what we have to fix. It’s just a matter of going out and taking care of it.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.