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Balanced scoring powers Wheeling win
By John Leusch | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/19/2013 10:21 PM

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It was a night of firsts for Wheeling’s boys basketball team at Elk Grove on Saturday.

For the first time this season, four Wildcats reached double figures.

The result was the Wildcats’ first win in the Mid-Suburban East.

Avenging a 34-point homecourt loss earlier in the season, the Wildcats scooted home a 62-54 winner as senior Nick Ricciardi (16 points), junior Jeremy Stephani (14), senior Kameron Hill (13) and junior Chris Pierro (11) did the majority of the offensive damage.

“That’s something to be proud of, to get that kind of contributions from four starters,” said Wheeling first-year coach Tony Como.

“We worked a lot in practice on executing the offense,” said Ricciardi, whose season-high is 20 points against Moline. “We worked a lot on pushing the ball and getting it ahead for layups.”

But there was more to the win than just offense for the Wildcats (4-15, 1-5).

“Defensively, we are getting better and better,” Ricciardi added. “We crashed the boards and the defense played a heck of game.”

Top rebounder for the Wildcats was Hill, who pulled down 8 along with 3 assists.

Ricciardi and Pierro each had 3 rebounds and 3 assists while Stephani handed out 4 assists.

The Wildcats trailed 13-10 after one quarter but led 32-23 at intermission.

Hill scored 9 of his 13 points, including a 3-pointer in the second quarter when Wheeling outscored the hosts 22-10.

“Anthony (Furman, Elk Grove coach) has a fantastic team,” Como said. “We knew we were going to have to play our best. The kids really rose to the challenge put on them, treating every possession as if it were gold.”

Wheeling led 46-39 after three quarters and Stephani made 3-of-4 free throws with 2 baskets in the final quarter when the Wildcats sealed the deal.

Ricciardi also had a big 3-pointer in the last period.

In all, the Wildcats had 5 3-pointers, including two by Ricciardi and one apiece from Will Anderson and Stephani.

“Nick (Ricciardi) has a tough assignment because everyone knows he is our best shooter,” Como said. “I was most proud of him for his patience. He sort of let the game to come to him. And he was working hard on both ends of the floor.”

Elk Grove (8-10, 4-2) was led by junior Joell Melendez (16 points) and senior Austin Amann (15).

Amann made 7-of-9 free throws, including four in the final quarter.

Melendez had three 3-pointers for Elk Grove while junior Scott Furlong (7 points) and sophomore Dan Hadler had 1 apiece.

“Our kids were moving the ball around the court and getting the most out of every possession,” Como added. “To their credit, they have been working really hard. One win isn’t going to win you a championship but it’s really good to see the hard work pay off.”