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|Junior Hameed Odunewu works around Alden-Hebron's Nick Beck to score 2 of his 19 points as the Ramblers improved to 18-2.
Akim Nyang tries to find an open shot under the basket despite Alden-Hebron defensive pressure from Quentin Van Bergen (No. 41) and Trevor Ball. Ball led the Giants with 15 points.
MOOSEHEART, IL Feb. 4 – Competitively, Mooseheart had Tuesday's Northeastern Athletic Conference contest with Alden-Hebron well in-hand by the end of the first quarter – by which time the Ramblers had a 27-3 lead.
The visiting Giants never made a run at the Ramblers, who coasted to an 89-44 victory to improve their record to 18-2 and 9-0 in the NAC.
"I thought we played really hard on defense, and that was really the name of the game," Mooseheart coach Ron Ahrens said. "If we play that hard against our next opponents, we're going to be in good shape. I've been saying all year that our defense is going to set up our offense, and I think that's exactly what happened tonight."
Mooseheart spread its scoring. All 10 varsity players played and all scored. Makur Puou led the way. The senior scored 14 points in the first quarter and ended with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks despite barely playing 16 minutes.
Hameed Odunewu added 19 points for the Ramblers while Mangisto Deng scored 12. Trevor Ball led Alden-Hebron with 15 points.
From this point forward, the competitive level increases dramatically for the sixth-ranked team in The Associated Press IHSA Class 1A poll. First is competition Friday and Saturday in the NAC tournament, which is hosted this year by both Harvest Christian and Westminster Christian. Sandwiched between those games, the Ramblers face Bartonville Limestone on Saturday in a 3 p.m. contest that is part of the 2014 Jim and Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops at Batavia.
"We're getting into a time of the year where we're playing some great competition," Ahrens said. "It's not like we haven't been playing quality opponents. But we're going to play some tough teams at the end of the year which gets us ready for the (IHSA) tournament, and I like that."
Bartonville Limestone is ranked in the IHSA Class 3A poll and is Mooseheart's strongest opponent since it faced Peoria Manual in the Canton Thanksgiving Tournament.
"I can't wait to play Limestone," Ahrens said. "I know how good they were last year and I want the guys to be challenged. I'm so honored to even be invited. Being around this area for 15 years and knowing the legacy Coach Roberts left up there."
Tuesday (Feb 11), Mooseheart faces a strong Indian Creek team that is highly-rated in the Little Ten Conference.
"It's not going to be like this was tonight," Ahrens said. "What are we going to do when somebody plays us to within 10 points? Luther North, we beat them by 11 at their place, and they scared the heck out of me. I'm glad we're ramping up our schedule now."
Feb. 16, the Ramblers face their strongest opponent in many years when they travel to Northside Prep in Chicago to play Curie, the top-ranked team in the IHSA Class 4A poll. The Condors also carry a national ranking. That contest is part of the Chicagoland Conference Classic.
These next two weeks should help the Ramblers prepare for the postseason, said Ahrens. The Ramblers' final regular season contest is Feb. 18 at Leland-Earlville.
Mooseheart 27 25 24 13 - 89
Alden-Hebron 3 9 11 21 - 44
Okito 2 0-0 4
Odunewu 7 5-7 19
Sanchez 1 1-2 3
Gordon 1 1-2 3
Kurowski 1 0-0 3
Tucker 3 0-0 6
Deng 5 0-0 12
Odunsi 1 0-0 3
Puou 13 0-0 26
Nyang 4 0-0 8
Totals 39 6-9 89