ELMHURST – Conant senior Ryan Davis was no secret to anyone, York included.
The 6-foot-9, 270-pound Vermont-bound center towers on the court, and attracts plenty of obvious defensive attention down low. For Conant, his presence allows shooters to surround on the wings, which can leave opportunities for favorable matchups for him later in the possession.
Davis, who scored Conant's first 10 points of the game, had little trouble finding room in the paint for 26 points and 10 rebounds en route to a 54-46 victory over host York at Thursday's quarterfinal of the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic.
Conant, the 2016 Jack Tosh champions, advanced to face Wheaton North in Friday's semifinal.
Wheaton North outlasted Hinsdale South 52-51 in overtime behind Josh Sorenson's 18 points and 13 rebounds. Iowa State recruit Zion Griffin had 25 points and 14 rebounds for Hinsdale South, his halfcourt heave rattling in and out as time expired in overtime.
Conant's Scott McColaugh followed Davis with eight points, and Anthony Wachal had seven points.
York (7-5) was paced by Erik Cohn for 15 points and two rebounds. Senior guard Angelo Martucci had nine points and four assists, while both Nick Kosich and John Milling both popped in eight points apiece.
But the undersized Dukes had no answer for Davis.
"He's one of the best players in the area," York coach Vince Doran said of Davis. "We knew that coming in, and he proved his worth today."
York, who won the tournament in 2015, led 26-25 at the half, thanks to Kosich finding Milling for a layup before the buzzer sounded. But Conant came out swinging to begin the second half, led by Davis.
"[Davis] was always trying to get open. He had really good footwork, and was just a beast in the middle," Milling said.
Wachal connected on a left corner three, and Davis and Rajat Mittal both converted layups to force a York timeout suddenly facing a 32-26 deficit. On cue, Kosich buried a three and Cohn later followed a missed York three for an acrobatic one-handed rebound-and-score to keep the Dukes within one.
With York up 39-36 heading into the final quarter, Davis was right back in the mix, hitting on six points for the lead once more.
With 2:21 remaining, and York back in the lead at 45-44, Davis made his final power moves. He swatted away a York layup attempt, which led to his own layup on the other end. After another Davis rebound he found Wachal in transition to bump Conant's lead to three with 56 seconds left.
"Give [Conant] credit," Doran said. "We just needed to be more aggressive down the stretch. I thought we got a little bit too timid. As coaches, we probably should've been more encouraging of guys to penetrate and make plays, but we'll learn from it."
York's Martucci missed two critical free throws, and Conant controlled with free throws of their own to preserve the win.
"We've played a lot of close games, we just haven't finished a lot of them," Milling said. "We'll get better as the season goes on."