Getaway propels Chargers
The divisional affiliation is now Blue instead of Red, but Stagg still embraced the latter hue Friday night in Flossmoor.
That was red as in red-hot, which described the Chargers’ shooting for stretches of their SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue opener versus Homewood-Flossmoor. Baskets on 10 consecutive field-goal attempts went a long way toward staking the visitors to a shockingly lopsided 46-28 halftime lead.
As coach John Daniels expected, the Vikings didn’t roll over and meekly submit to Stagg after that, but the veteran leader admitted to the third quarter being “really stressful.” When H-F wrapped Tai Odiase’s slam and Dorian McGraney’s 3-pointer around a missed Chargers dunk, the gap was narrowed to four points.
“I knew they were going to make a run,” Daniels said of the Vikings. “Their fans got back in the game and they had all the momentum.”
But instead of stopping play and trying to calm his athletes during a timeout, Daniels opted to forge ahead and Stagg guard Kevin White finally stopped the bleeding with a 3-point basket. That hoop halted a 16-0 H-F surge and snapped an 0-of-11 streak by the Chargers from the floor.
“Our philosophy is to try to get a shot off in 10 seconds,” Daniels said. “Sometimes teams celebrate a little bit [after a big scoring play] and don’t get back on defense, and you get a clean look.”
After Anthony Gardner (eight points, 13 rebounds) tallied on a putback, White nailed another 3-ball to extend Stagg’s lead at the start of the fourth stanza and put his club back on solid ground. Six late free throws by Max Strus then put the finishing touches on an impressive 80-64 triumph.
“I’m pretty happy,” Daniels said. “We were playing Homewood-Flossmoor at Homewood-Flossmoor — how many teams go in there and beat them?
“Do we have the same [overall] talent as other schools? No, but our supporting cast did a better job [than the Vikings’]. It was a good team win.”
According to Daniels, H-F coach Jim McLaughlin was determined to not let Strus beat his team. That much was evident by the attention the 6-foot-6 senior received from the Vikings’ defense whenever he touched the ball. The hosts held Strus to a 15-point output, but he aided the Chargers’ cause in other ways as he pulled down eight rebounds and dished out six assists.
“The kid’s got another gear,” Daniels said.
While H-F was keeping close tabs on Strus, Stagg was doing the same to the 6-8 Odiase, who collected just 10 points in the face of constant double-teaming. That, of course, always left someone else temporarily unguarded, but rarely were the Vikings able to capitalize.
In fact, H-F’s early troubles stemmed from a serious lack of shooting accuracy. At the moment the Chargers owned a 24-point lead in the second quarter, the Vikings had made good on only 4-of-26 shots up until then.
“After watching them on film, I expected a high-scoring game because they like to run, too,” Daniels said. “I didn’t expect them to miss like they did, and I think they got frustrated [for a while].”
What made Stagg’s eye-opening getaway even more stunning, at least in Daniels’ view, was that it had been preceded by a few rather nondescript practices.
“It was probably the worst week of practice we’ve had in a few years,” he said. “Our fundamentals were poor, our scrimmages were awful, and we didn’t get better in anything. I figured [the Vikings] were going to run us out of the gym.”
There were glimpses of futility on game night — 29 personal fouls, for example, and 10 missed free throws by the Chargers between the second and third periods — but not enough to derail Stagg’s quest to stay unbeaten.
White tossed in 25 points for the Chargers (5-0, 1-0), while Jeff Goral had 19. Fourteen of Goral’s came in the opening half on 5-of-5 marksmanship, which included three successful shots from beyond the arc. He also buried a 3-pointer in the late going after being relegated to the bench for a long stretch of the second half with four fouls.
“The kid has stones,” Daniels said. “He doesn’t play with fear. He’s a competitor and he’s going to be a nice [small-] college player.”
Besides being a good night for Stagg’s varsity squad, the trip to H-F also paid off in a win for the Chargers’ freshman team. Their sophomore club suffered a six-point setback.
Stagg was slated for three games this week in the Addison Trail Christmas Tournament. The Chargers no doubt entered it with some newfound respect from the outside world, but Daniels doesn’t believe their victory over H-F changed anything from within.
“You’ve got to have that swagger,” he said, “and we already expect to take the floor and win [every game].”
Stagg 25 21 13 21 - 80
H-F 8 20 23 13 - 64
Stagg Scoring: White 25, Goral 19, Strus 15, Gardner 8, Sims 7, Kolpak 4, Stratinsky 2. Rebounds: Gardner 13, Strus 8. Assists: Strus 6, White 4.