What a difference a couple of weeks can make.
Back on December 1st, the Conant Cougars dropped a 45-31 decision to the Palatine Pirates in their first MSL West conference game of the season to sit at 2-3.
Since then, the squad has reeled off four consecutive wins with the latest one coming Friday night as the Cougars earned a tough road win over the Fremd Vikings, 48-41.
"I wasn't here last year, but I know these guys took some tough losses (to Fremd) and I know the guys who were back, were on a mission to win this game tonight," said Conant first-year head coach James Maley. "This is the best game we've played all season."
Seniors Ryan Davis (22 points) and Ben Schols (16 points) led the way for the visitors as the Cougars shot 56 percent as a team to improve to 6-3 and make the Palatine loss a distant memory.
"Against Palatine in the first conference game, I felt we had a lot of young guys coming in," said Davis. "But I felt especially at practice following that loss, we all came together and became a lot more focused…it jumpstarted the whole season for us."
Fremd held an 11-9 edge after the first quarter thanks to the sharpshooting of Luke Seidel (16 points). The senior shooting guard had 8 of the team's first 11 points, including 2 3-pointers, to get the Vikings off on the right foot.
But then Davis started to dominate down low in the second quarter as he fought through double and triple teams to seemingly score at will, registering the team's next 8 points to put the Cougars ahead 17-16 midway through the stanza. Schols then nailed a straightaway 3 to put the visitors up 20-16 as Conant led 25-24 at the break.
"We came into the game saying we needed to get the ball to Ryan," said Maley. "Go into him every time and when guys double or triple him, other guys need to be ready to knock down shots."
After Davis slammed home his final points of the evening to put the Cougars up 33-30 late in the third quarter, Schols followed that up with a nifty layup to put Conant up 35-30 heading into the fourth.
Then, with the score still 35-30, junior guard Anthony Wachal (3 points) drilled a 3-pointer to give the Cougars their largest lead of the night at 38-30 as the team iced it down the stretch, hitting 6-of-7 from the charity stripe for the win.
"It's just great being around guys like Ben and Ryan," said Wachal. "Learning from these guys makes it easy for me to do my job as a role player."
With the loss, the Vikings drop to 7-2 on the year and 2-1 in the conference.
"It's a brand new group, a brand new team, we need to learn from this loss and move on," said Vikings head coach Bob Widlowski. "We didn't execute as we had prepared all week and left too many possessions out there in a close game."