FRANKLIN PARK – The progression of West Chicago’s boys basketball team over the last 12 months can be quickly summed up.
The Wildcats weren’t just happy to compete with and push higher seed, 20-win Glenbard North to the brink of elimination in a playoff game Tuesday.
Instead, the squad walked out of the gym truly disappointed not to be the team moving on after falling 51-48 in a Class 4A Leyden regional semifinal game.
“I had a blast with these guys,” senior standout John Konchar said. “It’s devastating that we lost. I wish I had another game with them.”
For a while, it looked like West Chicago would be the one advancing to Friday’s regional final against Lake Park. The Wildcats jumped out to an early 11-0 advantage and led 27-19 at halftime.
But the shots stopped falling for the Wildcats in the second half, and the Panthers got hot from the perimeter, knocking down six 3-pointers over the final two quarters.
The last trifecta from Jeremiah Fleming broke a 44-44 tie and gave Glenbard North the lead for good with 1:25 left in the contest.
“They made their shots, and we didn’t make our shots,” said West Chicago coach Bill Recchia, whose team more than tripled its win total from a year ago with its 17-11 record. “That was the turning point of the game. They hit shots at the key parts of the game.
“It’s frustrating, but that was a well-fought basketball game between two good basketball teams. They just put a couple more in the hole than we did.”
Mikey Bibbs added 18 points for the Wildcats, including a clutch 3-pointer that knotted the score at 44-44 with 1:40 remaining.
West Chicago advanced to Tuesday’s semifinal after a 64-56 win against Prosser on Monday. Konchar produced 38 points to lead all scorers. Alex Mitchell added seven points, and Ryan Orr finished six points.
In the regular season finale on Feb. 27, Konchar broke the all-time scoring mark at West Chicago that was previously held by his coach. Needing 16 points to establish a new record, the senior put an exclamation point on his outstanding 2013-14 campaign and high school career by totaling 45 points in leading the Wildcats to an 89-82 victory over St. Charles North.
Konchar finishes his West Chicago career with 1,551 points. Recchia held the previous mark of 1,461.
Bibbs added 18 points, and Mitch Henke and Marco Lomibao each totaled 10 against St. Charles North.