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Eighth-seeded Metea Valley top-seeded Lake Forest a scare at the Hinsdale South Christmas Tournament on Thursday.
When the Mustangs’ Vin Patel rimmed out a three-pointer at the buzzer, the Scouts had prevailed in the quarterfinal game by a score of 48-45.
Lake Forest swarmed early on the defensive end, but without using a press. The Scouts created six first quarter turnovers and led 17-7 after one. Metea went more than five minutes without a score, but Lake Forest’s field goals were layups only until Ben Simpson (10 points) drained a trey near the end of the period.
“It starts with energy, and that’s what we brought today,” said Simpson, who, along with along with George Quall and Jack Traynor, caused much of the defensive havoc. “Our coach stresses the little things on defense--pressuring the ball and getting in the passing lanes.”
The Mustangs ratcheted up their “D” in the second stanza, and held the Scouts to only seven points. Sam Downey (team high 11 points), Lake Forest’s 6-9 center, had four of those from close range. Metea closed the gap to 24-19 by the intermission as Patel (nine points) and Connor Archey (with assist by Melvin Meeks) scored from the field, and the Mustangs converted eight of 12 free throws as Lake Forest seemed to become a step slower on defense.
The Scouts defense was good enough to hold Metea to five of 18 shooting in the half, while converting 10 of 24 on the offensive end.
Lake Forest seemed to take control and worked for what seemed to be a safe 38-26 lead after three. Simpson drove through the press twice for baskets, and Ryan Bender drove the baseline and converted a Quall assist for two more baskets.
“It’s easy to play defense with our team right now. It’s contagious,” said Quall. “Everyone is buying in and giving 100 percent. It’s fun to play that way.”
Quall dropped in a free throw at the 3:30 mark to give Lake Forest a 42-32 lead, but the Mustangs weren’t finished.
Trayvond Taylor scored on a putback, and Patel drained two long threes -- 12 seconds apart -- to suddenly bring Metea close at 42-40.
After two free throws from Quall, the Mustangs’ Sean Davis (team high 11 points) dropped in a trey, and the lead had shrunk to one.
Quall scored on an inbound play and dropped in two charity tosses, but Davis countered with two free throws, and Lake Forest took what proved to be an insurmountable 48-45 lead.
Metea inbounded the ball with 1.5 seconds remaining, and got it into Patel’s hands for a last second trey attempt, but it bounced off and Lake Forest had the win.
Neither team helped itself at the line, as the Mustangs made 16 of 30, and the Scouts managed only nine of 18. The field goal percentages told the story with Lake Forest making 19 of 41 (46%) and Metea only 13 of 40 (33%).
“It was a battle,” said Downey. “Our guards got us out to a lead after three quarters, and we just held on at the end.”
The Scouts (9-2) move to the semifinal game against the Minooka/Stagg winner, and the Mustangs (7-6) now continue into the fifth place bracket.