Eagles overcome Crete-Monee in 2 OT
A day of hoops ultimately became a day of reckoning for Crete-Monee.
Actually, Sandburg made sure the Warriors’ entire experience at Joliet Central’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Hoops event last Monday was more nightmarish than anything else. The Eagles did that by expunging Crete’s seven-point advantage in the fourth quarter and eventually getting the last say in a 75-65 double-overtime final.
The victory was Sandburg’s second in three days, coming on the heels of a defeat of SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue rival Stagg the Saturday before at the United Center.
“It was a tough game to get up for,” Eagles coach Todd Allen said of the matchup with the Warriors. “We were pretty pleased to come away with the win there.”
That success became possible after Alec Martinez’s 3-point basket put Sandburg ahead to stay less than a half-minute into the second extra session. Following that field goal, the Eagles did much of their handiwork from the foul line — they went 16-of-18 at the stripe in the two overtime periods — and managed to keep Crete at arm’s length.
Four of the free throws were delivered in a bunch after the Warriors’ Rashad Lee got ticketed with both flagrant and technical fouls when he made contact with Niko Cahue in the late going. Sandburg’s senior forward sank a pair of charity tosses, Peter Paxinos made good on those awarded from the technical, and Eric Straka completed the blitz by hitting a bucket on the Eagles’ ensuing possession.
The sequence stretched Sandburg’s lead out to 10 points and decided the issue.
The charity stripe was the Eagles’ friend throughout the contest, as they went 23-of-29 from there overall. That was in stark contrast to Crete’s 14-of-26 display, which included six misses in the pivotal fourth stanza.
The Warriors were on the verge of losing in regulation, but caught a break when one of Sandburg’s rare misfires at the line kept the differential at two. Lee’s putback squared things at 50, then Martinez had the ball knocked away from him on the Eagles’ last possession.
Martinez (career-high 18 points, five assists) had created a 47-all deadlock for Sandburg with a layup following his own steal, then the Eagles inched ahead with a few of their foul shots.
It was Cahue’s free throw that saved Sandburg in the initial OT, as that point brought it even at 59 after Brandon Johnson’s three-point play had briefly given the Warriors a one-point edge. Cahue ended the day with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, and was one of four Eagles to tally in double digits.
Doing so in addition to Cahue and Martinez were Straka (career-high 23 points) and Niko Kogionis (11). Sandburg shot 44 percent from the floor, while Crete connected on 42 percent of its attempts.
The road didn’t get any easier for the Eagles on Friday, as they visited Flossmoor to renew acquaintances with a familiar SWSC Blue foe. For sure, Sandburg had the Vikings’ full attention after having knocked them out of the postseason last March.
And, had free throws been distributed a bit more evenly, perhaps the Eagles would have duplicated their earlier conquest. But on an evening when very little separated the two teams statistically, Homewood-Flossmoor’s 17-3 scoring advantage at the line was critical to the outcome.
While Allen did not wish to comment publicly on the discrepancy — which featured Sandburg not attempting its first foul shot until the fourth quarter — he did confess to wondering how it could have existed when his own club spent much of its time stationed in a non-attacking zone defense. That didn’t prevent Allen from praising his guys for a job mostly well done, however.
“We played real well,” he said. “Our kids realize [the Vikings] are very good, but we’re confident when we play them. I thought we rebounded well, took care of the ball, defended well and executed on offense pretty well.”
The numbers supported Allen’s opinion. In regard to ball protection, for example, Sandburg’s meager total of nine turnovers exceeded Allen’s expectations and got him to declare that he was “extremely happy with that.” Only one of those miscues happened over the last 16 minutes.
Defensive highlights included forcing 13 Vikings turnovers and limiting them to one fourth-period field goal, and the Eagles matched H-F with four offensive rebounds. Besides its free-throw shortage, Sandburg’s other liability was a lack of accuracy — only 15 of the visitors’ 48 field-goal tries were on target, and its starters endured a rocky 9-of-30 performance.
“That’s what really hurt us, but I don’t think we took any poor shots,” Allen said. “I can’t fault anything [because] everybody has nights like that.”
Kogionis had 12 points to lead the Eagles’ regulars, but the big story for Sandburg (6-11, 2-4) was Tommy Demogerontas, who racked up a team-best 14 points, including 10 of his team’s 13 in the second quarter.
“He’s a junior who has some potential,” Allen said, “and he gave us a big lift.”
Despite their problems, the Eagles never lost sight of the Vikings. Sandburg was as close as five points a few times during the fourth frame, but H-F sewed up the verdict by burying 12-of-14 free throws during the session.
Plainfield East 55
Playing for the fourth time in a week, the Eagles were right with Plainfield through the opening half of Saturday’s When Sides Collide Shootout game at Glenbard East. The scenario changed dramatically after that, however.
Sandburg got outscored 16-8 in the third quarter, mainly because of a disastrous six-turnovers-in-seven-possessions span. In addition to their self-inflicted woes, the Eagles were harmed by University of Illinois-bound Aaron Jordan, who poured in 25 points for Plainfield while taking only 10 shots. Included among his total were five 3-point baskets.
“I thought they were a good team, but I [also] thought we made some poor mental mistakes,” Allen said. “It was a 55-possession game [for us] and we made 17 turnovers — that’s almost a third of the time.
“I don’t know if it was because it was our fourth game in seven days, but it was disappointing. We were never able to get over the hump.”
Kogionis had 19 points for Sandburg, 14 of which kept it in the hunt during the first 16 minutes. Cahue chipped in 15 points, but the Eagles were virtually silent after that.
Although he wasn’t enamored of aspects of Sandburg’s play on Saturday, Allen admitted the Eagles have had to deal with several obstacles of late.
“This is our toughest stretch and we went 2-2 against four pretty good teams,” said Allen, whose squad hosts Bolingbrook in an SWSC Blue game on Friday, just its third home contest to date.
“If somebody would have asked me earlier if I’d take a 2-2 record for these games, I’d have probably said yes. Every game we’re battling and I’m proud of the kids’ effort.”
Crete-Monee 13 15 17 10 9 6 - 65
Sandburg 10 19 11 10 9 16 - 75
Sandburg Scoring: Straka 23, Martinez 18, Cahue 13, Kogionis 11, Paxinos 7, Ruzevich 2, Manthey 1. Rebounds: Cahue 10. Assists: Martinez 5.
Sandburg 10 13 7 9 - 39
H-F 12 14 11 15 - 52
Sandburg Scoring: T. Demogerontas 14, Kogionis 12, Cahue 8, Straka 3, Ruzevich 2. Rebounds: Straka 6. Assists: Straka 5.
Sandburg 13 9 8 12 - 42
Plainfield East 13 11 16 15 - 55
Sandburg Scoring: Kogionis 19, Cahue 15, Martinez 3, Straka 3, Piazza 2.