Eagles knock off De La Salle in opener
A year ago, they simply hit the ground.
This time, the Sandburg Eagles hit the ground running.
The Eagles eventually recovered from a disastrous start to the 2012-13 basketball season, enough to where they played plus-.500 ball over the final 17 games and created a positive outlook for the current campaign. And coach Todd Allen hopes that last Monday’s unexpected conquest of De La Salle was the first indicator that those feelings of optimism weren’t misplaced.
Sandburg didn’t make it through last week’s Hinsdale Central Tournament unscathed, but it did split four games. And, as Allen pointed out, the field was highly competitive.
“On the last day of the Hinsdale tournament, any team could have finished either first or last,” he said. “It was definitely not a cupcake tournament. It was a good test for the start [of the season], and hopefully that prepares us for the rest of the year because we do not schedule lightly.
“I love our group [of players]. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but I’m looking forward to the season. I think we’ll be pretty good.”
Not too long ago, Allen figured on the Eagles being very good, thanks to the slated return of senior Malek Harris and the arrival of 6-foot-7 junior TJ Vorva from Marist. However, an injury has delayed Vorva’s introduction to the Sandburg lineup.
As for Harris, his career with the Eagles is over. Another school-rules infraction saw to that.
“I’m still not over it [completely],” Allen said of the offseason turmoil. “But I have to be because I’ve got to get our team ready.”
He certainly had Sandburg adequately prepared for De La Salle, which entered its season-opener owning a top-25 ranking from one large media outlet. When the Meteors scored 23 second-period points and assumed a 36-29 halftime lead, they appeared in control of the proceedings.
But De La Salle got “Niko-ized” in the third quarter. Niko Cahue and Niko Kogionis both deposited six points for the Eagles in that frame — Kogionis doing so on a pair of 3-point buckets — and point guard Alec Martinez drilled another trey.
It all added up to a 22-10 scoring advantage for Sandburg, which then held on for a 66-60 triumph that Allen jokingly called “the upset of the century.”
“I’m real happy to get the win — it says a lot about the kids,” he said. “We felt good about the game.
“Last year, we came out of the gate and really struggled, so I’m glad to get that first one under our belts. This was great for the kids’ confidence because [the Meteors] were very talented, and I’m very proud of them in that regard.”
Cahue and Kogionis finished with 27 and 14 points, respectively, and the former also grabbed nine rebounds. Cahue notched one-third of his points in the fourth quarter to keep De Salle at bay.
Allen, though, credited the third period as the most instrumental one in terms of deciding the outcome.
“Twenty-two points, for us, is a lot in one quarter,” he said. “We got good shot opportunities and open 3s in transition.”
Sandburg went 9-of-18 from 3-point range and clicked on 59 percent of its shots overall. It also picked up 13 points at the charity stripe.
Hinsdale Central 47
The Eagles couldn’t carry their good fortune over into Tuesday, as they fell behind the host Red Devils early and trailed by 14 at intermission. Even though Hinsdale Central was limited to 17 points after the break, Sandburg was unable to make up much ground, thanks to 29 percent shooting.
“I don’t know if it was [due to] the big win from the night before, but it was the tale of two games,” Allen said. “I thought we got very rushed offensively and their size hurt us.
“We didn’t do a good job of matching up with them physically and we weren’t able to establish an inside presence. They were able to keep us away from the rim and forced us to shoot from the perimeter.”
The Devils’ superior size also translated into a hefty 37-19 edge on the glass. Hinsdale included a dozen offensive rebounds among its total, which led to 21 points.
No Eagles player managed to reach double figures in scoring. Pete Paxinos’ nine points topped Sandburg and Kogionis tallied seven.
Hinsdale South 56
It was more of the same on Friday, at least offensively, as the Eagles once again struggled to get anything substantive going. Allen cited the presence of 6-foot-9 Hornets sophomore Barrett Benson as a factor in his team’s lackluster production.
“He kept us out of the lane,” Allen said. “I wasn’t happy with our performance offensively because everybody on our team was too perimeter-oriented.”
Martinez and Kogionis both had nine points to pace Sandburg, which could not get closer than eight in the fourth quarter.
Glenbard South 57
A new wrinkle in the Hinsdale Central Tournament was its cross-promotion with an event hosted by Glenbard West. On Saturday, that pitted the Eagles against the Raiders in a game played at Glenbard East.
And coming forward to headline for Sandburg was junior Joe Ruzevich, whose eight first-period points fueled a 20-6 getaway. Ruzevich ended the contest with a team-best 17 points, a performance that Cahue backed with 12 points of his own. Martinez added 10.
Glenbard South rallied in the second frame and reduced the margin to one, then inched in front by a point in the third quarter. But the foul line became the Eagles’ ally over the last eight minutes, as they went 9-of-13 from there to seal their victory deal.
“I was glad to see us come back and get a win after losing two in a row,” said Allen, whose club faces Lincoln-Way East in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue game on Friday.
Sandburg 13 16 22 15 - 66
De La Salle 13 23 10 14 - 60
Sandburg Scoring: Cahue 27, Kogionis 14, Paxinos 8, Straka 6, Martinez 4, Ruzevich 4, Manthey 3. Rebounds: Cahue 9. Assists: Martinez 6.
Sandburg 9 7 8 13 - 37
Hinsdale Central 17 13 11 6 - 47
Sandburg Scoring: Paxinos 9, Kogionis 7, Cahue 6, Straka 6, T. Demogerontas 3, Manthey 3, Martinez 3. Rebounds: Straka 4.
Sandburg 7 9 11 13 - 40
Hinsdale South 14 11 14 17 - 56
Sandburg Scoring: Kogionis 9, Martinez 9, Manthey 6, Cahue 5, Piazza 5, Straka 3, Paxinos 2, Ruzevich 1.
Sandburg 20 9 13 19 - 61
Glenbard South 6 22 15 14 - 57
Sandburg Scoring: Ruzevich 17, Cahue 12, Martinez 10, Kogionis 6, Straka 6, Mansour 4, T. Demogerontas 3, Manthey 3.