Daily Herald
Conant gets defensive in victory at Wheeling
By John Juettner | Daily Herald Correspondent
Published: 12/1/2012 9:50 PM

Conant’s constant defensive pressure is designed to wear its opponent down over the course of a game.

On Saturday night against Wheeling, the strategy proved most effective. The visiting Cougars forced the Wildcats into several turnovers and countless contested shots in a 73-39 Mid-Suburban League divisional crossover victory.

“I thought they did a really nice job hanging in there early on,” Conant coach Tom McCormack said. “I think Wheeling does a lot nice things. He (Wheeling coach Anthony Como) is definitely on the right track. It wasn’t like they just went out there and rolled over. It took a while to get that accomplished. With the experienced guys that we have, that is what we expect.”

Conant senior guard Joe Muska was part of the wave of substitutes that allow the Cougars to relentlessly pressure on defense.

“I think it definitely wore them down,” Muska said of Conant’s defense. “We try to do that every game. We try to get up on the other team and get them on their heels a little bit.”

McCormack said Conant’s defense led to successful offensive possessions. The Cougars (2-4) had a balanced scoring attack, with nine players scoring 5 or more points. Senior forward Robert Hudson was the game’s high scorer with 18 points. He did most of his damage in the paint.

“Usually I’m looking to play out on the perimeter, but I didn’t know they were going to switch on defense,” Hudson said. “I remember playing them last year in our Thanksgiving tournament. We beat them, but we didn’t take advantage of the post. As soon as I saw that defense, I knew I wasn’t going to get perimeter shots. I knew I had to go down low and take advantage of the mismatch.”

Junior guard Joey Ranallo scored 8 points for Conant, and senior guard Mark Monti had 7.

In a humble act to make sure teammates got into the game in the final minute, Muska purposefully stopped the clock by throwing the ball out of bounds. It was a prime example of Conant’s unselfish mentality.

“We’re really team-oriented here,” Muska said. “I was a junior on the bench last year, on the bench every game. And I was begging for up-by-30 minutes. So I knew what those guys were feeling down by the scorer’s table. So I said, ‘Let’s get play stopped. Let’s get them in.’ Because I know last year if I was at that scorer’s table I was begging for the game to stop so I could get in.”

Junior guard Chris Pierro (9 points) and senior guard Will Andersen (7 points) paced the Wildcats (2-4). Como said he was proud of his team for their hard work, and the effort with which they played Saturday.

“We’re at a stage where we want to move our program to become a winning program,” Como said. “I think (Conant coach) Tom (McCormack) does a fantastic job at that. When you look around the area at making a program a successful one, you try to emulate what Conant’s doing. It’s exactly what I want my guys to see — how hard they work and how hard they play on both ends.”