O’Brien: Doormats no longer, Downers Grove South has big dreams

SHARE O’Brien: Doormats no longer, Downers Grove South has big dreams

Downers Grove South was 5-23 last season. Expect to hear that record an awful lot this year. The Mustangs plan to turn things around quickly. There were no small goals mentioned after knocking off Metea Valley 68-64 on Tuesday at the St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament.

“Definitely winning conference and regional and sectional,” said junior Denis Alibegovic. “It may sound crazy but I think we can make a state run.”

The excitement surrounding the debut of the No. 19 Mustangs was palpable. Maybe not in the crowd, but definitely on the court and on Downers Grove South’s bench. This is an intense group. They played hard, if not always smart, from the tip-off.

“I think we’re going to have a really strong season, we had two great weeks of practice,” Downers Grove South coach Kris Olson said. “But the game is where you have to do it. There are jitters and different things like that. I thought our guys competed hard and did the right things down the stretch. Very ugly at the end, but that is what the first game looks like.”

Metea Valley (0-1) led six at halftime. It appeared the game was heading towards a coming out party for talented sophomore Malik Hall. Instead, Downers Grove South found its legs.

“We came out a little ragged but we got it together, came out and dominated the second half,” Alibegovic said. “We’ve been ready to start the season for awhile, since the summer. We were ready to come up and pick up our first win in a long time.”

Alibegovic, a junior, finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. He’s an excellent shooter with a lot of bounce in his game. Junior TJ Clifford, a strong 6-6 junior, was impressive with 21 points and eight rebounds. Tyree Spencer, a promising junior guard that transferred from St. Joseph, added 10 points and eight rebounds.

“Almost all of us played together on the sophomore team, we’ve been together a long time,” Alibegovic said. “We are ready to win now. We have the chemistry. There is a lot to work on but I feel like we are getting really good.”

Hall finished with 12 points and five rebounds for Metea Valley. He’s definitely a player to keep an eye on. Senior Harrison Kranz led the way with 18 points for Metea, which shot 4-for-23 from three-point range.

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