Metea Valley surges past Conant for its 19th win

Mustangs senior Jahki Gray thinks last season’s 10-20 record might actually be the reason his school’s community hasn’t quite bought into the team yet.

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Metea Valley’s Jakhi Gray (1) hits a three against Conant.

Metea Valley’s Jakhi Gray (1) hits a three against Conant.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Saturday afternoon games can be a hard sell. Most casual fans don’t expect a high school basketball game to start at 4:30. So that may be one excuse for host Metea Valley being outnumbered by Conant fans on Saturday in Aurora.

Mustangs senior Jahki Gray thinks last season’s 10-20 record might actually be the reason his school’s community hasn’t quite bought into the team yet.

“They still think that we are bad because of last year,” Gray said. “We are proving them wrong, but they just don’t see it yet.”

Metea Valley’s late pressure overwhelmed Conant. Camden Lathos made a three-pointer with 4:44 remaining to put the Cougars up by one and Conant looked like the better team early in the fourth quarter.

That’s when the Mustangs turned up the pressure, forcing the young Cougars into five crucial turnovers on the way to a 57-48 victory.

“That’s exactly how we lost games last year,” Gray said. “We saw their heads go down after that first turnover and we jumped on that and picked up our intensity.”

Gray scored seven points in the final three minutes to finish with 18.

Metea Valley (19-8) is talented enough to win a regional this year at the very least. Gray and Quentin Schaffer are the only seniors in the starting lineup, so the future is bright.

The DuPage Valley has been a sneaky good conference this season. None of the teams are in the Super 25, but five of the six have winning records and three are likely to finish with more than 20 wins.

“The conference has definitely improved,” Mustangs coach Isaiah Davis said. “It’s going to be very difficult to seed the sectional.”

Schaffer scored 11 points for Metea Valley and junior Will Ashford added 12 points. Junior Nicholas Schroeder finished with 10.

“All of the games we would lose last year at the end we are winning this year,” Davis said. “And a lot of the guys are back next year so there’s a lot to look forward to.”

Junior Yusuf Cisse led Conant (13-11) with 13 points and six rebounds. He’s a strong, active point guard that showed promise. Bradley Biedke, a 6-5 sophomore, added eight points, eight rebounds, a block and three steals and Lathos, a junior, finished with 12 points and five rebounds.

“The run late is what determined the game,” Conant coach Matt Walsh said. “We don’t have that many seniors on the team and we don’t want to use that as an excuse but experience is the best teacher. Metea Valley is a really good team.”

A close look at the Cougars’ recent results shows a young team on the upswing. In the last few weeks they’ve beaten Hoffman Estates, Lake Park and Fremd and lost to Palatine and Barrington, two of the best teams in the Mid-Suburban League, by a combined five points.

“Our guys have been battling non-stop,” Walsh said. “We’re always staying together. We will learn from this and get better.”

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