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Evanston KOs Maine West
By Bill Esbrook | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 3/1/2012 12:36 AM

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Staunch defense and a deliberate style of play kept Maine West in the game for three quarters against Evanston.

But with leading scorer Conor Hart out, the Warriors just didn't have enough firepower.

Hart, a 20-point averager who went down Feb. 17 with a season-ending knee injury, could only watch as Maine West fell to No. 5 seed Evanston 44-28 at the Notre Dame Class 4A regional. The Wildkits will meet the host Dons in the regional title game Friday in Niles.

"Conor's the kind of guy who can score when you're not running anything, and you need a basket," said Warriors coach Erik McNeill. "That's what he gives you and it's hard to replace."

"We were a man down, but we came out ready to play," added Maine West senior guard Kevin Garcia (5 points). "We had a plan but we couldn't score when we needed to."

Points were hard to come by for both teams in the first half as the Warriors (12-15) trailed 15-10 at intermission, and a layup by senior guard Will Hepburn (5 points) to start the third quarter brought 12th-seed West within 3.

Then Evanston was able to extend the lead to double digits, led by the inside play of 6-foot-4 senior forward Leonard Garron (game-high 11 points.)

"We knew their length and size was going to be an issue," said McNeill of the taller Wildkits, "but I thought if we could keep them in the 40s we might be able to make some plays down the stretch. We were able to execute but we just couldn't get the ball in the basket."

Maine West, which missed 11 of its first 12 3-pointers, got back-to-back 3s in the fourth quarter from junior Tom Kukec (6 points) and Garcia to get as close as 38-26 with 2:50 remaining.

But it was all Wildkits (18-10) thereafter as Jordan Perrin and Terrell Farmby pitched in with 10 points apiece.

Senior Dylan Carson added 6 points for the Warriors while classmate Cody Zimmerman, a 6-9 forward, played tough inside with 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks.

"This season's been a rollercoaster ride," said Garcia, who along with Hepburn, Carson, Zimmerman and Jon Augustine played their final game for the Warriors. "But it's also been a lot of fun, and I couldn't have asked for a better group of teammates."