Chargers’ depth sinks three foes
To reach the heights this season, Stagg must display depth.
Everyone on the Chargers’ schedule knows the kind of damage Max Strus can inflict upon them. Appropriately, more and more opposing game plans are being designed with the idea of lessening the 6-foot-6 senior’s impact as much as possible.
Lincoln-Way East was particularly effective at doing exactly that Friday night in a SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue encounter. The Griffins devised a scheme that shackled Strus and limited him to seven points, which came on one field goal and five free throws.
Stagg coach John Daniels admitted Strus “had an awful day” shooting-wise, but credited Lincoln-Way East for creating that situation.
“When you go against a team like that, you definitely expect good competition,” Daniels said. “They took us out of what we wanted to do and frustrated us.”
That frustration didn’t extend to everyone within the Chargers’ lineup, however. While Strus was kept under wraps, Kevin White, Nick Sims and Jeff Goral all provided Stagg with double-digit scoring, and that balance catapulted it to a 64-50 victory in Frankfort.
With wins over Comer Prep (78-49) and Wheaton North (52-43) banked earlier in the opening week of the Addison Trail Christmas Tournament, the Chargers are out to an 8-0 start, the best beginning ever to a Stagg basketball season. Along the way, the Chargers earned themselves spots on a few Chicagoland-area media top-25 lists.
“We’re getting a little bit of recognition and we’ve become a target [for other teams],” Daniels said. “We’ve got to expect that now.
“This was one of those grinding weeks, where we didn’t really play that well [at times]. We were losing in the first quarter on Wednesday and Friday.”
Stagg (8-0, 2-0) was barely ahead of the Griffins at halftime, but it finally established a bit of breathing room by scoring 20 third-period points and 19 more in the fourth frame. Sims was a key component for the Chargers, as he collected 11 of his 17 points after intermission.
White finished with 18 points and three assists, while Goral contributed 16 points and six rebounds. Also boosting Stagg was an 11-of-14 exhibition at the charity stripe, which represented a vast improvement over recent showings.
Wheaton North 43
The Chargers’ difficulties against the Falcons last Wednesday at Addison Trail were even more pronounced; at the very least, they lasted longer.
Like Lincoln-Way East was to do again on Friday, Wheaton North pushed Stagg into an early hole. The Falcons could never put much space between themselves and the Chargers, but they also refused to let go of the lead through three quarters.
“They were a team that scouted us well and was really prepared,” Daniels said. “The game was real physical, which played into their hands.
“We’re a talented team, but as a team we definitely lack the toughness of Stagg teams of the past. To me, toughness doesn’t mean hitting somebody, but doing the little things to be good, like setting screens and diving for loose balls. And if we’re not doing that, we don’t have that kid who’ll get in the huddle and say, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’”
But despite the apparent shortcomings, the Chargers would not be shortchanged on the scoreboard. With Sims, White and Sebastian Kolpak all hitting baskets, Stagg embarked on an 8-0 run at the onset of the fourth period that shifted momentum its way. White and Kolpak combined for 14 of the Chargers’ 22 points over the last eight minutes.
Also of note was the defensive work Stagg did on 6-7 Falcons center Jack Hegland, who was held to three buckets and a total of 12 points. Responsible for most of the double-teaming on Wheaton North’s big man were Kolpak and Anthony Gardner.
“We played their style [for much of the game] and still found a way to get a win,” Daniels said. “This was one of those [types of] games I’ve lost in the past, but we made the run that mattered.”
Strus topped the Chargers with 19 points and eight rebounds. His scoring included a 7-of-7 effort at the free-throw line. No one else was in double figures, but White, Sims and Kolpak all registered between seven and nine points.
Comer Prep 49
The only laugher among last week’s contests was a Monday tilt with Comer Prep, which fell behind 22-8 in the first quarter and never recovered. Comer was a late replacement in the tournament for a Chicago Catholic League school that bowed out because of that conference’s scheduled postseason event.
“It was sort of nice playing a city team because they don’t scout you — they just come out and play,” Daniels said. “It was a good day to get guys in and see how they defend.”
Strus (seven points) and White (six) led the Chargers’ early getaway and wound up with 27 points between them. Sims (15 points) and Goral (11) also played pivotal roles, but nine players in all scored. Included among Stagg’s hoops were five 3s and a number of baskets that came off back-door cuts.
About the only thing that bothered Daniels was the Chargers’ lack of success at the foul line, where they went just 4-of-11. According to the veteran leader, a continuation of that “is going to catch up to us.”
Stagg returned to Addison Trail this past Monday for a game against the host school. The Chargers squared off with Bolingbrook on Tuesday and will play once more in the tourney later this week.
Comer Prep 8 12 19 10 - 49
Stagg 22 20 20 16 - 78
Stagg Scoring: White 16, Sims 15, Goral 11, Strus 11, Kolpak 9, Stratinsky 8, Jordan 3, Kelly 3, Gardner 2. Rebounds: Gardner 6. Assists: White 4.
Stagg 7 12 11 22 - 52
Wheaton North 11 11 9 12 - 43
Stagg Scoring: Strus 19, White 9, Sims 8, Kolpak 7, Goral 5, Gardner 4. Rebounds: Strus 8. Assists: White 5.
Stagg 9 16 20 19 - 64
L-W East 11 13 14 12 - 50
Stagg Scoring: White 18, Sims 17, Goral 16, Strus 7, Kolpak 6. Rebounds: Goral 6. Assists: Strus 3, White 3.