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Twenty-win wish Grant-ed
By Marty Maciaszek | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/28/2012 12:51 AM

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Grant might want to consider a nickname change even though it hit the 20-win milestone Monday night.

It sounds just like Bulldogs but might be a better fit right now since they were only seeded 12th in the Barrington Class 4A boys basketball sectional. It's a status they wouldn't mind carrying for awhile after they beat No. 21 Wheeling 59-37 in a regional quarterfinal at Palatine.

"It's kind of put us in an underdog situation," said 6-foot-2 senior Jared Helmich, who had game-highs of 19 points and 15 rebounds.

"We've beaten some pretty good teams and people doubt us, so we play with a chip on our shoulder," said senior point guard Allen Lewis of wins over Stevenson, Rolling Meadows, Libertyville and Barrington. "A lot of teams underestimate us and say, it's little old Grant, the smallest team in 4A."

But the underdog Bulldogs (20-7) are also one of the hottest by winning 11 of their last 12 and 16 of their last 19. Lewis had 7 points and 4 assists and seniors Ilya Kadushin and Sean Wells had 12 points apiece.

The Bulldogs' first 20-win season in 10 years and only the sixth in school history puts them in Wednesday's 7:30 p.m. Palatine regional semifinal against No. 5 Lake Forest (16-9), which has won 11 of 13.

"The last two weeks we've really started to peak," said Grant coach Wayne Bosworth. "These guys have really bought into the team concept. The way they've bought into team play has led us to where we're at right now."

At both ends of the floor as Wells helped limit Wheeling (2-25) sophomore scoring leader Jeremy Stephani to only 7 points and one 3-pointer in the first 29-plus minutes. Stephani finished with 13 points on 5-for-19 from the field and 3-for-12 on 3s.

Grant missed all four of its 3 attempts but shot 50 percent inside the arc (23-for-46) against Wheeling's packed-in 2-3 zone.

"You can't key on one person," Helmich said of Grant's balance.

"If one guy is off for awhile," Lewis said, "we'll be able to have four other guys step up at any time."

Senior Lamont McPherson added 10 points and 6 rebounds as Wheeling shot just 25 percent (13-for-52).

"I felt we had a good game plan and I thought we did a good job in the first half with our 2-3 zone," said Wheeling coach John Clancy. "They're a very good basketball team and we knew tonight would be a tall task.

"I felt we were going to give Grant all they could handle but when you're not making shots, you could see it hurt our kids' confidence."

No. 13 Fremd (16-11) won Monday's first quarterfinal 50-48 over No. 20 Palatine (3-24). The Vikings play in today's 7:30 p.m. semifinal against No. 4 Waukegan (15-10).