BRAIDWOOD — For the first time in more than a year, Manteno returned to the basketball court with hopes of getting its first conference win of the season in the Illinois Central Eight against Reed-Custer on Tuesday.
But in a matchup with skilled youngsters on both sides, it was Reed-Custer junior Lucas Foote and the Comets who took their first win of the season. Foote dropped a game-high 24 points to lead Reed-Custer to a 64-50 victory.
“Lucas is a difficult matchup for a lot of people,” Comets coach Mark Porter said. “He can go to the basket, and he can knock down the 3 ball. He’s playing really well right now.”
The Panthers went into Tuesday’s matchup with a completely different lineup from last season, and their inexperience finally began to show in the second half. After a first half that saw both teams knotted up at 33 points, Reed-Custer turned up its defensive pressure in the second half, forcing seven third-quarter turnovers alone by the Panthers.
This helped spark a 17-7 run by the Comets to close out the third and give them a double-digit lead going into the final quarter, when they were able to secure their first win of the conference season.
“In the first half, we kind of fought and battled to kind of hang around,” Porter said. “And then in the second half, I think we regained our focus, and we played with a purpose. I think we did a better job at contesting shots and taking things away from Manteno.”
The Comets completely took Manteno’s Clint Garner, Liam Bivona and Manny Carrera out in the second half. The trio totaled 24 of the Panthers’ 33 first-half points but was held to just 9 points total in the second half.
“Reed-Custer did a good job making adjustments in the second half,” said Manteno head coach Zack Myers. “I knew they would, but we just didn’t adjust well enough off of it. ... I give them credit because they got up and pressured us and made things difficult for us offensively.
“And then they had a great shooting night and hit some big shots that really hurt us.”
Given all the turnover on both squads this season, Porter knew his team was going to need to be able to get some easy buckets from its defense in order to snag its first win of the season. His team managed to just that, scoring 14 points off Manteno turnovers, with a majority of them coming in that third quarter.
“For us to be successful at any time, we need our defense to turn into offense,” Porter said. “We need probably at least 10 points a game that way. We had a few times in the second half [when] that was the case, and it was one of the reasons why we were able to put a little bit of daylight between us and Manteno.”
Foote added three rebounds, four assists and two steals to his game-high 24 points. Jake McPherson added another 13 points and a team-high six rebounds.
Carrera led the Panthers with 14 points, followed by Bivona (11 points) and Garner (8 points).
The Comets head to Streator for another conference matchup at 6:45 p.m. Friday. The Panthers have a conference game against Lisle at 6:45 Tuesday.