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Kukec’s clutch bucket lifts Maine West in OT
By Bill Stone | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 1/4/2013 11:54 PM

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Maine West senior guard Tom Kukec usually is known for 3-point shooting.

While Kukec had a huge 3-pointer Friday at Fenton that forced overtime, his biggest basket was a layup.

That bucket with 25.6 seconds left was the game-winner in the Warriors’ 46-43 victory in Bensenville after once trailing 19-3 midway through the second quarter.

“It feels good to be down that bad and see our team stay with it and battle all the way back,” Kukec said. “Maybe it was a little different being down low, but I didn’t want to launch a three with 30 seconds. I knew if we could get a layup at that point, we didn’t have to wait (to score).”

Both teams previously were 1-1 in OT games. As they did in regulation, the Warriors (7-7) appeared to be playing for the last shot in OT after Fenton’s Will Harris tied the game 43-43 with 1:10 left.

Kukec saw an opening, darted to the basket, and Joel Ferreren found him for the layup and 45-43 lead. Fenton (3-11) called a timeout but its inbounds pass underneath was knocked away and recovered by Kukec, who then made 1 of 2 free throws with 14.6 seconds to play. The Bison had one last chance to tie, but the ball was knocked loose near midcourt as time expired.

“We felt like we were running for the last shot, but we wanted to look for back-door cuts,” Maine West coach Erik McNeill said. “I knew there was a small window left (early on) because I felt we weren’t sharp on offense. I knew eventually those shots would fall, though, and they did.”

Following a 1-for-15 shooting start, Maine West closed to 24-17 by halftime. Junior guard Allante Bates had 16 of his season-high 22 points after halftime and gave the Warriors their first lead at 35-34 with 5:19 left in the fourth quarter.

With 1:10 left, Kukec (12 points) made his third trey but first since the second quarter for a 39-39 tie. After Fenton missed two missed shots, the Warriors’ Anthony Dones missed a long 3 at the buzzer.

The Bison had six 3-pointers Friday, three by Tyler Troy (9 points), but made just 1 of 9 free throws, missing four one-and-bonus opportunities in the fourth quarter.

“It was probably one of our strongest efforts this season,” Fenton coach Josh Payton said. “We’re striving for consistency and we’re not quite there yet. We’re real young. Hopefully we’ll start coming out on the other end.”