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Mack free throw lifts Prospect over Conant

Knights post 44-43 win in Saint Viator tournament

By Ken Keenan
ARLINGTON HEIGHTS -- Is this November, or March?
In a down-to-the-wire thriller that had all the makings of a do-or-die
playoff battle, Prospect nipped Conant 44-43 in the season-opening game
for both teams in the 39th annual Joe Majkowski Thanksgiving Basketball
Tournament on Tuesday night at Saint Viator's Cahill Gymnasium.
Prospect junior guard Frankie Mack was the hero, nailing a free throw
with 7.5 seconds left in the fourth quarter to snap a 43-43 tie. The
Cougars had a chance to win it, but a three-point try at the buzzer
missed the target.
Prospect (1-0) trailed by nine points late in the third quarter. After
cutting the deficit to two at 35-33 entering the fourth, the Knights 
were down 43-40 with two minutes to go. Mack, who scored a game-high 19
points, made a pair of free throws with 1:33 left, and 6-foot-6 junior
forward Matt Szuba hit another one 14 seconds later to tie the score.
After Conant failed to score on a couple of attempts underneath with 50
seconds left, Prospect gained possession. Soon after the Cougars (0-1)
tried to double-team Mack in the backcourt, but standout junior guard
Jimmy Sotos (team-high 17 points) was called for his fifth foul of the game.
Conant head coach Tom McCormack quickly called a timeout and
subsequently Mack missed his first free throw attempt with the Knights
in the super bonus.
Another timeout followed, but Mack's aim was true on his return to the line.
Prospect head coach John Camardella pointed to the team's motto --
"Single Mind" -- as being a key factor in the Knights' comeback win.
"This is a group that believes in themselves," Camardella said. "We
talk about 'single mind,' and the idea is to focus in, as one. Last
year, we lost five games in overtime. (Tuesday night), we learned how
to finish a game. We were chasing, but we hung in there to the end.
I'm really proud of our guys."
Szuba, (nine rebounds, seven points, three assists) seconded the notion.
"We come out together as one team, one mentality -- single mind," he
said. "We made some big shots and came out with the 'W'."
Added senior guard Dan Marshall (nine rebounds, five points, two
assists): "We tried to keep a single mind and stay positive. We just
work as a team. Whatever the score, we all get back up and keep going.
I'm happy for our team."
Though McNamara lamented the fact that his team's loss was due in part to
cold shooting in the fourth quarter, especially in the paint, the Cougar
head coach preferred to look at the bigger picture. His
starting lineup featured only one senior, 6-7 forward Chima Oduocha.
"We are in the infant stages," McCormack said. "I thought some of our
kids did well, but we're still getting to know one another. We're not
gonna hang our heads. We'll tip our hat to Prospect, a really good
basketball team. I know we're going to get better. We told the kids,
'It's a marathon.'"
Sotos -- an all-area selection as a sophomore in 2014-15 -- had the
hot hand early on, scoring 10 of Conant's 14 points in the first
quarter, which ended in a 14-14 deadlock. A free throw by Marshall
gave Prospect a brief 15-14 advantage, but the Cougars roared back to
build a 23-17 lead on a driving layup by 6-8 junior center Mike
Downing (eight points) with 2:07 left before halftime.
Mack chopped it to 23-20 at the break on one of his four
three-pointers, necessitate by Conant's strategy to clog the lane to
keep the Knights on the perimeter.
"That's a really good Conant team," Camardella said. "It's hard to
find gaps ... hard to find holes."
A layup by Sotos opened the third-quarter scoring, and he added two
free throws with 5:43 left in the frame to make it 27-20. Following a
layup by Prospect junior guard Michael Ritchie, Conant's 6-9 sophomore
forward Ryan Davis (eight points) scored from down low for a 29-22
With 1:28 left in the third, Mack sunk another trey, pulling the
Knights within four at 33-29. Marshall knotted it at 33-33 on two free
throws with before Davis put Conant back on top by two to end the
Conant led by five at 42-37 on bucket by Ryan with 4:15 remaining. A
cold spell from the floor plagued both teams before Knights sophomore
guard David Swedura drained a three to make it 42-40 with 2:25 to go.
The Cougars carved out a three-point edge on a free throw by Oduocha
with two minutes showing. But Conant never scored again, leading to
the decisive free throws by Szuba and Mack.
"They're two of our captains, along with (senior forward) Alec
(Bisiel), and it just goes to show you how much leadership and trust
matters," Camardella said. "Both (Szuba and Mack) came up as
sophomores last year, and by the end of last year they were starting.
They've kept building from there."
The teams return to the round-robin Thanksgiving tourney Wednesday.
Conant faces Highland Park in the first game of the night at 6 p.m.
Prospect faces the host Lions at 7:30 p.m.
Tournament play concludes on Friday: Prospect meets Highland Park at 5 p.m.;
and Conant tips off against Saint Viator approximately 90 minutes later.
Starting lineups
Prospect (1-0)
F: Matt Szuba
F: Alec Busiel
G: Frankie Mack
G: David Swedura
G: Michael Ritchie
Conant (0-1)
C: Mike Downing
F: Ryan Davis
F: Chima Oduocha
G: Jimmy Sotos
G: Ben Schols
Today's Schedule: Season Schedule