Eagles easily soar past Griffins
To Lincoln-Way East, Sandburg was a beast Friday night.
Not right away — first, the Eagles had to play through an uneven opening period. While it assumed a 16-9 lead over the Griffins during the quarter, Sandburg’s performance was also pockmarked by eight turnovers, several of which were unforced.
The Eagles’ first three possessions of the evening, for instance, ended on a pair of travels and because of a bad pass. The session was truly one of feast or famine for the hosts.
“Our execution was very good when we didn’t turn the ball over,” Sandburg coach Todd Allen said. “But Lincoln-Way East wasn’t pressing and we had eight turnovers in 16 possessions. I was very upset with my team when that quarter ended.”
Allen’s demeanor improved soon after that, however, as Sandburg righted itself by going on a 21-9 second-period tear. That outburst put the Eagles firmly in command of the proceedings, and the Griffins never threatened Sandburg’s well-being after that.
Instead, the Eagles claimed a resounding 71-50 triumph in their SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue opener. Four Sandburg players scored in double figures, a group paced by Eric Straka, who netted 19 points.
Six-foot-7 Niko Cahue added 17, 12 of which were provided before halftime. Junior guard Niko Kogionis knocked down three 3-pointers in the second quarter and finished the night with 16 markers, and fellow backcourter Alec Martinez had 10 points.
“We got some good open looks in transition,” Allen said. “Once we decided we wanted to take care of the ball [properly], we played pretty well and they had a hard time finding someone to guard Niko Cahue. We got some easy post feeds, and we were able to establish both an inside and outside game.”
Despite the early difficulties, the Eagles (3-2, 1-0) still concluded the evening with an offensive-efficiency rating just short of 1.0, as they netted 71 points on 72 possessions. Sandburg’s total of 20 miscues was higher than Allen would have preferred, but it was actually a respectable amount in light of the nightmarish opening session the team endured.
What Allen did find satisfying was the Eagles’ continued ability to be offensively potent. Three times in its first five encounters, Sandburg has notched at least 60 points — by contrast, it bettered that total just twice in all of 2012-13, and one of those outbursts came in a fast-paced matchup with Lincoln-Way Central.
Allen credited Kogionis and Martinez with being the Eagles’ catalysts for improvement.
“How your guards go is how high school basketball teams go,” he said. “Martinez and Kogionis both had 28 varsity games under their belts [entering this season]. That experience in the backcourt makes a big difference.”
The Griffins trailed by 18 at the third-period stop and never drew closer than 13 points after that. To ensure nothing would undermine its victory aspirations, Sandburg sank 10-of-12 free throws in the last eight minutes, with four different players contributing at the stripe.
“We’re doing some different things offensively that we’re getting used to and we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but it was a good win for us,” Allen said. “Before Christmas, we have three conference games, and we took care of our home court here.”
The Eagles will take part in a boys’-girls’ doubleheader tonight at Joliet Central, then visit LaGrange on Saturday to tangle with Lyons Township.
“[Tonight] will be a real good test for us,” Allen said.
Lincoln-Way East 9 9 12 20 - 50
Sandburg 16 21 11 23 - 71
Sandburg Scoring: Straka 19, Cahue 17, Kogionis 16, Martinez 10, F. Demogerontas 2, T. Demogerontas 2, Hyde 2, Paxinos 2, Abed 1.