Coming into this season, Maine West coach Erik McNeill was concerned about the lack of experience on his boys basketball team.
McNeill should not be concerned any longer.
The Warriors dispatched Libertyville 62-51 to take home second place honors in their own Thanksgiving Tournament.
Maine West improved to 3-1 and did so with inspired play.
Tom Kukec (20 points, six 3s), junior Allante Bates (16 points, 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 5 assists) and Matt Finander (14 points, 11 rebounds) paved the way for Maine West.
We didnt have alot of experience coming back, said McNeill. We improved each game of the torunament. We played against different styles of offense and defense and did well.
We gave up a lot of size to them. I thought our guys did enough good things at both ends of the court to get us the win.
Kukecs 3-pointer with 2:54 left in the second quarter gave the Warriors a 21-18 lead for good. It sparked a 9-0 run to finished the half and give Maine West a 27-18 lead. Kukec scored 16 of his points in the first half.
The Wildcats (1-3) pulled to within 4 points following back-to-back baskets by Matthew Varner, who scored 13 points and had 11 rebounds to make the score 37-33 with 2:18 left in the third quarter.
Bates countered with two baskets the second coming from a steal from Jamel Sherman and led 42-36 at the end of the quarter.
We played some good good defense in the third quarter, said Bates. In the first half Libertyville hurt us with their fastbreak. We were able to get some turnovers and defensive stops when we needed them in the second half.
Finnander came up big in the fourth quarter, outmuscling the taller Wildcats by grabbing 5 rebounds.
After the Wildcats drew as close as 44-40 with 6:00 left in the game, Kucek hit another 3-pointer and Finnander put in a offensive rebound to offset a basket from Jack Deichl (19 points, 6 rebounds) for a 49-42 lead.
Theyre a big team, said Finnander. The rebounding had to get done. I had to put out that effort. Thats my role and thats how I contribute. The points came because of rebounding. Tonight we focused on defense, rebounding, and scoring. Im excited for the season.
Jack Lipp had 12 points for the Wildcats, who hurt themselves from the free throw line by missing 11 of 18, several at critical times.
We just could not get over the hump when we got close, said Libertyville coach Scott Bogumil. We had some good looks early, but the shots didnt fall. It was a disappointing tourney, but its still early in the season. Were a bit banged up but we have time to make the adjustments.