Warren finishes strong at Mundelein
It was getting to be nervous time for Warren.
The visiting Blue Devils, paced by a relentless defense, held close to a double-digit lead through most of the game Wednesday night at Mundelein.
They took an 11-point advantage with 6:07 remaining in the game - then the Mustangs unleashed an extremely effective trapping, full-court press.
Two minutes and a few turnovers later, the lead was down to just 5, and it was timeout time for Warren.
"I told they guys to just stay composed," said Blue Devils coach Zack Ryan. "Mundelein is a good team, so what we had to do was not turn the ball over, stick together, and talk."
"That was big, and we did a good job of that."
Did they ever. Warren recovered their composure to outscore Mundelein 13-3 down the stretch, en route to a 59-44 North Suburban Conference boys basketball win.
It was the first NSC win for Warren, which improved to 6-3, 1-2. The Mustangs fell to 3-6, 1-2.
"We've got a long way to go," said Ryan, "but anytime you can get a conference win against a good team at their place, it's something to build on."
The two teams were locked in to a close battle early on, but the tide turned early in quarter number two.
The Blue Devils defense started to assert itself, and when Warren junior forward Alex Daniels hit a driving layup, the lead for the visitors was 19-11.
Warren took a 9-point advantage into intermission, then opened things up a little in the third behind some stellar play from senior guard Adrian Jones.
"Our biggest thing tonight was playing better in the third quarter," said Ryan, "because we've really had a hard time doing that in the last two games. That's made it tough for us."
Warren's Adam Panek fed Daniels for an easy layup to start the fourth period, but Mundelein sophomore Derek Bishop (game-high 21 points) and the Mustangs' stifling full-court press saw the home team close within 46-41.
"That's the identity of this team, we fight to the end," said Mundelein coach Matt Badgley. "We play hard, and this is a fun group to coach because they do play so hard.
"We have limits, and we're trying to fight through those limits and see what we can do."
The Mustangs had chances to get even closer but a few free throws rimmed out, and a huge 3-pointer in crunchtime by Warren's Braylon Walker helped put the game out of reach.
Daniels, who led the way for Warren with 15 points, scored 3 key buckets late to give the Blue Devils some breathing room.
Emmanuel Willoughby scored 11 points for Mundelein. Josh Stewart had 10 for Warren, while Jones finished with 9 and teammate Jack Wolf tallied 8 points.
"For us, it always starts with our defense," said Ryan. "When we defend and force teams into bad shots, we can get out on our break a little. That opens up the game for us."