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Student section pushes boys’ basketball to brink of upset win

The Metea Valley Boys’ Basketball team came painfully close to an upset, losing to #1 Waubonsie Valley 48-45 in front of a packed crowd.

Led by the MV Captain’s Council and their Athlete and Teacher Appreciation Night, students filled the stands, bringing a palpable buzz that didn’t go unnoticed.

“It was great to have the support of the student body,” Metea Valley Head Coach Isaiah Davis said. “It was an electric atmosphere and a very good high school basketball game. A very competitive game between two very good basketball teams.”

The Mustangs controlled the tip, immediately gaining the lead with senior Center Will Ashford splitting two free-throws. After the teams traded threes, senior Guard James Parker alertly threw the ball off a Warrior before going out of bounds, leading to a possession that brought Ashford a dunk and a 6-3 MV advantage.

Ashford’s quick dunks  have become a common theme, with another Waubonsie turnover leading to another Ashford slam, sending the crowd into a frenzy. 

Checking into the game with 4:13 left in the first quarter, sophomore Guard Trey Watkins created an instant impact, leaping up to knock an inbounds pass into the Warrior backcourt to lay in the fastbreak chance for a 10-7 lead.

“Trey brought instant offense for us off the bench,” Davis said. “He always finds a way to get his hands on balls and he rebounds well, and he’s just gotten better and better as the year’s went on.”

Despite missing a tough buzzer-beating attempt, junior Jake Nosek splashed home a three to end the quarter’s scoring. Metea clung to a 17-13 advantage, with the scoring led by Ashford’s 9-point period.

Buckets didn’t come easy to start the second frame, but Watkins once again proved his worth, banging a trey from the right wing two minutes in to stretch Metea’s lead to 7. It was a heavyweight fight and the Mustangs had come out swinging.

“We knew what to expect and how they were gonna play,” Davis said. “We were ready to go and the kids did a good job executing.”

However, Waubonsie finally broke through, with Junior Moses Wilson cashing in a triple with 4:55 left in the half. Unfortunately for the Mustangs, this would be where things started to unravel. Despite a two offensive rebound possession from Watkins and a key Parker steal to thwart a Warrior transition opportunity, the Mustangs went scoreless over the final 4:05, surrendering a critical 9-0 run and the early momentum.

But the ever-expanding student section wouldn’t let the team go out like that. Following the halftime entertainment honoring staff members and a featuring fullcourt putting competition, the Mustangs came out of the break with a bang.

Nosek rose up from the corner on the first possession, knocking in a three to get the team back in the ballgame. After plenty of back-and-forth action, Parker came up with yet another massive defensive play, stealing a pass and sending the eager defender flying on his shot fake, leaving him wide alone for an easy deuce to take a 32-30 lead.

Down 34-32 moments later, Nosek hit a deep three from dead on, sending pandemonium throughout the student section with a minute left in the quarter. After a questionable no-call on another Nosek buzzer-beating three-point attempt, the Mustangs entered the 4th quarter down 38-35, but with a returning momentum.

Despite an Alex Dahnel miss from the corner, Nosek scooped a steal and dished it to Ashford, pulling the Mustangs within one. Just as common as they were in the first quarter, once again Ashford came up big at the rim.

Running ahead of the pack, he slammed down a go-ahead jam, complimenting it with yet another dunk off of a Parker pocket pass the following possession. The 6-0 run to open the final frame all came from Ashford, putting Metea in the lead 41-38, and cementing the senior with yet another star performance.

“[I’ve been] realizing there’s not much time left in my senior season, so I’m just going out there having fun, playing as a team, and realizing that my team needs me going out there and doing what I can do to help us win,” Ashford said.

Calling a timeout to help draw up offense, Watkins made yet another big play, back cutting his defender and drawing a hard foul at the rim. Two clutch free throws later, Metea had a 43-40 lead with 4:15 to play.

Yet on the other end, Ashford’s 4th foul slowed momentum, forcing Davis to take out the senior to prevent him from fouling out.

Even then, Metea still battled, with Watkins stealing the ball under the basket momentarily before Waubonsie Junior Tyreek Coleman regained possession and powered it in. 

Knowing he needed Ashford’s offensive impact, Davis’s hand was forced, and following a turnover he knew he had to get Ashford back in

“It was under three minutes, and so once you’re in that situation, you just have to play your best players and see how it plays out,” Davis said.

After another Mustang turnover, the Warriors went after Ashford, who had to be careful not to disqualify himself, allowing Waubonsie to regain a 44-43 lead.

Yet even after another turnover the next trip, the black and gold found a way to give themselves a chance. Instructed to press for a steal, Junior Dominic Smith came in on a double team, forcing a 10-second violation and regaining possession for Metea once more.

In front of his student section, now silent in anxiety, Nosek pulled up once again from the corner, pulling Metea ahead 45-44 with 1:20 to play.

However, Wilson made sure the Warriors weren’t down for long. The junior was left wide open from the left wing, connecting from deep to break the hearts of the home crowd.

Metea still had a chance and called a timeout in hopes of drawing some offense up but even then, the turnovers persisted.

“We had a lot of turnovers that were forced by ourselves, so [we needed to] limit our turnovers, knock down some shots down the stretch, and just play within ourselves,” Ashford said of the late 4th quarter struggles.

After an intentional foul, Waubonsie’s Coleman stepped to the line aiming to put the game away. But the Metea students wouldn’t make it easy, roaring with intensity, and helping to force a miss on the second shot, keeping the 3-point margin and giving the team one last opportunity.

After an Ashford rebound and long pass ahead, Dahnel tried to secure the ball, but a strong Waubonsie closeout forced him to attempt to give it up. As his pass fell at the feet of Nosek and trickled into the hands of the diving Warriors, the time᠆and Metea’s opportunity for an upset᠆had ran out.

Despite a disappointing finish, the crowd and team’s play against a top team gave the team hope for a potential postseason run.

“We’re hosting the regionals this year,” Ashford pointed out. “So to be able to have that same crowd be able to come back for playoffs would be really fun and it was a good environment. I think it helped us get good momentum tonight.”

The Warriors continue their undefeated season, now sitting 22-0 (7-0). Metea moved to 16-8 (3-4), and will try to get back on track against their other 204 rivals, Neuqua Valley, on Feb. 2.

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About the Contributors
Charlie is on staff for the first time as a sports writer and he is a senior at Metea Valley. He loves following Chicago sports and spending time with family. When not cram studying or writing his next story, he is probably off tracking seven different games at once and questioning each coach’s decisions.
Xavier Delgado is in his only year on staff and his final year at Metea Valley. He spends his time producing and listening to music while paying attention to football. He also enjoys family time.

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    Shawn TimothyJan 31, 2024 at 12:29 pm METEA MEDIA Pick

    Tough loss but absolutely astonishing reporting as always. Go, Go, Mustangs!