AURORA, Ill. -- To be undefeated at this point of the season is no easy feat.
The number of unbeatens dwindles by the day now. Bloom and Glenbard West both fell from those ranks earlier this week.
Metea Valley never expected to be undefeated this late in the season. But as the Mustangs are learning now, to remain unbeaten only becomes harder. Opponents know their wins are piling up and their loss column still reads zero. With each victory, they turn into a bigger target.
That was certainly case when Lake Park came into Metea Valley on Saturday and took its best shot at knocking the Mustangs off. It wasn’t pretty for the most part, but No. 8 Metea Valley pulled out a 61-45 win to improve their record to 14-0.
“Our coach talks about it a lot that we have the X on our backs right now,” Metea Valley junior guard Ryan Solomon said. “We all know the first team to beat us is going to be our first loss. We have to step it up right now.
“It’s definitely very nerve-wrecking where everyone’s like, ‘They’re undefeated.’ It’s hard not to think about it.”
Lake Park was on track early to upset Metea Valley. The Lancers played aggressive man-to-man defense and kept Metea Valley and its star Kenny Obendorf from finding any offensive rhythm throughout the first half.
Lake Park led 8-6 after one quarter, and Metea Valley was up 16-14 at halftime. Obendorf had two points at half and finished with nine for the game.
“We couldn’t even get into plays, which is the worst,” Solomon said. “We started getting lazy and not going out for screens and stuff. That really led to our issues in the first half with our offense.”
Metea Valley’s defense kept it into the game. The Mustangs only allowed six points and forced seven turnovers in the second quarter.
Led by that same tough defense, Metea Valley sparked its offense in the third quarter. The Mustangs forced seven more turnovers, and those turnovers led to nine points on the other end.
All together, Metea Valley outscored Lake Park 20-10 in the third quarter. Metea Valley junior forward Sean Davis had six points and three steals in the quarter.
Metea Valley was in control of the game throughout the final quarter.
“The whole year we’ve been stressing that defense wins game,” Metea Valley senior forward Milan Bojanic said. “We had good defense the whole game, and we kept pushing in transition. We did a better job of turning our defense into offense.”
Solomon led a balanced Metea Valley effort with 13 points. Bojanic (12 points) and Davis (11 points) also contributed in the win.
“We haven’t played a perfect game,” Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza said. “It’s not even close to that. It’s only going to get tougher as we move onto the second half of this conference and regionals and sectionals. We got to get better if we want to achieve the goals that we have.”