Boys’ basketball late surge falls short against #20 Waukegan


Nate Burleyson

Senior Ethan Helwig going up for a lay-up early in the second quarter.

The varsity boys’ basketball team (9-9) took on #20 Waukegan(14-4) in a non-conference home match last night. After Waukegan went up 18-9 in the first, the Mustangs crawled back into the game and kept it close in the first half off the back of Earnest Neal’s 14 first-half points. In the end, however, Waukegan kept it moving and fought off a late comeback, winning 83-80.

Early in the game, Waukegan doubled and tripled team players in the post. This allowed for forced passes that resulted in steals and easy lay-ups. They got three steals in the first four possessions and went up 15-4, but Metea switched to more of a zone and climbed back into the game. Metea was able to get through that pressure and keep it close. “What they were doing was trapping sidelines, and we talked about that in practice. But it’s different simulated in practice than what happens in the game. I thought we did a better job, not a perfect job, but a better job through the rest of the game keeping the ball off the sidelines,” head coach Matt Walpole said.

They found open lanes and got separation and rained in a few threes. “We knew that they were really big on help so we just started kicking the ball out, and it just opened up the floor for us,” senior Earnest Neal said. But they were matched heavily by the speed and toughness of Waukegan, Metea was down 45-37 at the half.

The second half was strong out of the gates for Metea, they brought the game within one at 52-53 with 4:23 to go in the third quarter. Waukegan called a timeout after a Helwig lay-up that made it 54-55. A big difference was that Waukegan was no longer getting as many easy lay-ups. We had multiple chances to go away, we were kinda on the ropes 3 separate times. I loved the fight in our kids,” Walpole said.

Yet coming out of the timeout, Waukegan got back to old trends and closed out the quarter on a 10-2 run, 65-56 Waukegan lead. They continued that momentum into the fourth quarter and closed the game out, or so they thought. Metea battled back in the last minute, bringing the game from down 10 to down three. With 11.3 seconds left, Waukegan inbounded the ball at Metea’s side and Metea intentionally fouled. The free throw was missed and with a chance to tie, Waukegan came up with another steal to end the game, 83-80. “If you let a team score 83 points, it’s hard to find success,” Walpole said. 

Even behind 24 points from Myles Leavy, 19 from Neal, and 19 from Helwig, the team fell short. It was a rare occurrence to have three players score high in one night. It came off of a lot of ball movement. “We shared the ball well, had extra passes and good and great shots. We drove the ball well and made free throws,” Leavy said.

The team has just past the halfway point of the season and the postseason looms. As they take a look into the mirror, the team assesses their play. There is still a decent amount to take care of before they think about the postseason though. They have three remaining DVC matches, one against Naperville Central and two against Neuqua. The team’s next game is Thursday versus Downers Grove South.