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Prospect responds to
Hersey run, wins MSL opener

Gardner, Whitebloom come off bench to spark comeback

By Brian Thomas 
 
MOUNT PROSPECT – "Next man up."
 
That's how Prospect junior forward Matt Szuba summed up the Knights’ 49-47 Mid-Suburban League victory over Hersey on Friday night.
 
With Prospect trailing the Huskies 37-32 with 4:48 remaining in the fourth quarter, junior forward Frankie Mack left the game with cramps after a foul on his contested layup. 
 
The Knights inserted junior guard Antonio Gardner who knocked down one-of-two free throws to make it a four-point game. 
 
Seconds later guard Grant Whitebloom came away with a steal and scored on a layup to cut Hersey’s lead to two. 
 
The Knights forced a turnover, and Gardner knocked down a three-pointer from the right corner to give Prospect a 38-37 lead with 4:20 left to play.
 
“Our guys believed in themselves,” said Prospect head coach John Camardella. “We got contributions from all over the place; I think that’s what made it such a great game.”
 
Hersey wasted no time in retaking the lead after junior guard Joe Coffaro hit a short jumper. 
 
With 2:16 remaining, Gardner stepped to the free throw line and knocked down both of his attempts to tie the game, 42-42.  
 
Again, Whitebloom answered the bell on defense and came away with another steal. He finished the sequence with a short jumper that gave Prospect a 44-42 lead. A minute later the junior pushed the Knights lead to four when he dropped in a layup.
 
Hersey responded and scored the next five points starting with a deep three-pointer from Coffaro. After a stop on defense, senior forward Zack Cooper drove the lane and found senior forward Kevin Starr at the basket for a layup that gave the Huskies a 47-46 lead with 21 seconds left.
 
After a Prospect timeout, Mack reentered the game and took the sideline inbounds pass right to the basket. He finished with a layup off the glass that gave the Knights a one-point lead with nine seconds remaining.
 
“The second I knew he was OK we ran a play for him, clear out a side and go.” Camardella said of Mack. “That’s all you can ask for is a guy who’s strong enough to get to the rim.”
 
Hersey head coach Steve Messer wasn’t pleased with how his team defended Mack’s go-ahead basket.
 
“He’s a tough kid,” Messer said. “If I would have done anything different I would have said deny him a touch, because he just bullied his way to the basket. We could’ve given a better effort than that.” 
 
Hersey’s last possession fizzled.
 
“We were either looking for a backdoor going to the rim, me coming to the ball or a guy coming right to the corner for a shot,” Coffaro said of the final play. “We couldn’t get a good screen going, couldn’t get anyone open. They got the ball.”
 
Prospect's Szuba intercepted a pass with two seconds remaining to secure the Knights win in their conference opener.
 
In the fourth quarter, Whitebloom poured in 9 of his 10 points and Gardner scored six of his eight points. 
 
Prospect (2-2, 1-0) set the tone for the game with its tough defensive play in the second quarter. The Knights didn’t allow the Huskies a point until senior guard Mark Milligan scored on a layup at the four-minute mark. 
 
“They were getting up in our passing lanes,” said Coffaro, who led Hersey with 13 points. “They were making it hard for us to get open on the wings. They were just bodying us, and we weren’t able to handle it early on.”
 
Prospect took the lead in the second quarter behind an 11-2 run and took a 22-13 lead into halftime. 
 
In the second half Hersey tried a new game plan. Starr was a focal point on offense, and junior and senior guards Christopher O’Toole and Robert Lindgren saw increased minutes.
 
“We played different kids,” Messer said.” “We played some kids who were hungry and really played defense.” 
 
Hersey responded by dominating the Knights in the third quarter with a 14-0 run. The Huskies scored all 14 points inside the paint.  
 
“They went to attack mode,” Camardella said. “They were punching gaps in the paint; we were sliding our feet rather than turning and cutting them off.”
 
The turning point in the quarter started when Lindgren was fouled on a driving layup and cut Prospect’s lead to 25-19. He missed the free throw attempt, but Starr grabbed the offensive rebound and scored to make it a four-point game. 
 
Prospect ended the 14-0 run with 18 seconds left in the third quarter when sophomore guard David Swedura knocked down two free throws. Hersey took a 29-27 lead into the fourth quarter. 
 
Camardella was proud of the way his team was able to withstand Hersey’s big run and come back to win the game.
 
“For most teams, in a high school basketball game that’s really hard to come back from,” Camardella said. “Especially with a younger group, but to their credit they pulled it out.”
 
Starting lineups
 
Prospect
 
F Matt Szuba
F Frankie Mack 
F Alec Busiel
G David Swedura
G Dan Marshall
 
Hersey
F Zack Cooper
F Kevin Starr 
F Edward Mleko
F Michael Lelito
G Joe Coffaro
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