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Momentum stays on the side of Hoffman Estates.

Byline: Lou Nunez, Jr. Daily Herald Correspondent

Momentum has the potential to lift a team to a successful outcome.

It can come from a single play, or sometimes as the result of entire game.

And, perhaps, it comes from a successful stretch of play over a relatively short span of time.

This last example has been the narrative for Hoffman Estates boys basketball team. A strong third-place finish at Glenbard Wests holiday tournament over the break enabled the Hawks to reach the .500 mark.

A Mid-Suburban West matchup at Conant coming up on Friday gave Tuesdays MSL home crossover with Wheeling even more importance in keeping above that break-even mark.

Thanks to some timely shooting, Hoffman successfully kept the visiting Wildcats at bay for a 61-48 win Tuesday night.

"The key tonight was that we played with high energy for 32 minutes," Hawks coach Luke Yanule said. "Our guys understand the difference in comparison to our loss to Willowbrook (59-40 at Glenbard West on Dec. 28) where we had such low energy."

Yanule also stressed his teams success in staying focused.

"I also liked how we were in terms to our approach," Yanule added. "On this night the second day of the semester you can easily lose focus. Youre going back to school after the holidays, its a Tuesday night, youre playing in front of a small crowd. I was pleased with how we were to adapt to all of it."

His squads successful adaptation got going after a 3 by Wheeling guard Jeremy Kim 23 second into the second quarter kept the Wildcats ahead at 14-8.

Then came the first of Adrian Punzalans fourt 3s, launching the Hawks (8-7) toward a 16-5 second-quarter advantage that left Hoffman Estates ahead 24-19 at the break.

Hoffman Estates 5-foot-10 junior guard Marquez Woodard added 7 of his 11 points during that surge.

Still, Wheeling (5-11) hung around and even got within 5 (at 37-32) on 2 of senior Phil Buckos game-high 22 points from a Kim feed with 1:17 left in the third quarter.

But Punzalans third and fourth triples of the night went a long way toward settling matters. As the third quarter clock was winding down, the 5-10 senior calmly drained a 25-footer to give Hoffman a 42-32 lead as the buzzer sounded.

After a Bucko 3 a minute into the fourth pulled the Wildcats within 42-35, Punzalan swished his final trey from right of the hoop, putting the Hawks back up by 10 (45-35) with 6:34 to go. Wheeling got no closer than 8 the rest of the way.

Punzalan, who paced Hoffman Estates with a team-high 19 points, gives credit to three sources of support: taking extra shooting reps, working on his game at home with both his father and uncle, and the confidence that his head coach bestows upon him.

"I think that it all comes together," Punzalan said. "Shooting the basketball with more confidence allows you the opportunity to take and make those shots at the end of a quarter, or at the end of a game."

Sheldon Barnett-Morales, a 6-5 junior, added 14 for Hoffman Estates while Michael Best chipped in 12 for the Wildcats, who host MSL East leading Prospect on Friday in a return to MSL East Division play.

In looking forward to Fridays game against Conant, Punzalan stressed the importance of following up their recent success.

"Were playing with something to prove," he said. "The seniors (6) on this years team have talked about changing the culture of Hoffman basketball and leaving a legacy. Right now were going into the second half of the season with a lot of momentum and we want to keep it going."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Author:Nunez, By Lou; , Jr.
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jan 10, 2018
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