Photo by Jeff Vorva
Josh Strama of Stagg drives against Willowbrook on Friday in a loss. The Chargers finished second in the 20th John McBride Tournament after beating Nazareth on Saturday.
When presented with the notion that Stagg’s basketball team is a particularly experienced group given it has three three-year varsity starters, Tom Kazanecki demurred.
“Well, I only started the last game of my sophomore year,” the 6-foot-7 center said, “so I guess …”
But there was no guessing who the most valuable Charger was, at least as far as coach John Daniels was concerned, after Stagg went 3-1 last week to take second in the five-team 20th annual John McBride Thanksgiving Classic. Stagg was among several area teams to finish second in tournament play during the first week of the boys hoops season.
“Tommy, to me, was the MVP of the tournament,” Daniels said. “Now, Willowbrook won it, so (Warriors center Ethan Schuemer) deserved to get the award — but he killed everybody else. Tommy held him to four points and was our most consistent player all week.”
Kazanecki, an all-tournament pick along with fellow senior John Contant, had 10 points and two rebounds in a 57-53 win Saturday over Nazareth Academy. The Chargers (3-1) bounced back from 53-49 Friday loss to Willowbrook that they led by four with less the three minutes to play.
For the tourney, Kazanecki averaged 12.5 points and six rebounds per game. Saturday, he scored eight of his points in the second half, while Contant (19 points) was saddled with foul trouble, and drew a key charge in the final 30 seconds.
“That was big,” Daniels said.
Especially after he implored his seniors — Jaswon Finley and Darek Liput to join three-year starters Kazanecki, Contant and Josh Strama (15 points) in the first five — to step up in the wake of Friday’s loss.
“We made mistakes, we didn’t take care of the basketball, we had too many defensive breakdowns,” Daniels said. “We should have been successful in that situation because of our experience.”
Against Nazareth (1-3), the Chargers jumped to an early nine-point lead. But the Roadrunners pulled ahead at the half on a three-pointer by Thomas Sandt (14 points), one of eight treys they hit on the day.
Nazareth led by five on back-to-back threes early in the third quarter from freshman Tagen Pearson — the one player with whom his father, first-year coach and Nazareth legend Sean Pearson, need not become better acquainted.
“I learned a lot about the guys this week,” Sean Pearson said. “I learned what they need to work on.”
Pearson used 12 players. Ryan Felbinger (10 points) joined Sandt in double figures.
“To be able to go 12 deep in a tournament is a good thing,” he said. “We won’t always do that, but we’re going to play up-tempo, so we’ll use a lot of players.
“They’re still getting used to me. But they listen, and I love their effort.”
Kazanecki loved the Chargers’ effort after he and Contant each hit a pair of free throws to give them the lead for good early in the fourth quarter.
“This was definitely a hard-fought, fun game,” he said. “We definitely could have played a lot harder (Friday). That shouldn’t happen. We have to step up more as leaders.’’
Sandburg (3-1) finished second in the eight-team tournament after dropping a 53-37 contest Friday at Reavis. Ed Mila and Jake Pygon were named to the All-Tournament team.
Oak Lawn finished fifth but earlier in the tournament, Rashad Johnson broke the school record with 52 points and hit 12 3-pointers in an 83-61 victory over the Islamic Foundation School.
Greg Lehmann set the previous scoring record with 43 points during the 1979-80 season and Johnson broke his own 3-point record of eight, which he hit during the 2014-15 campaign.
Joliet West Tournament
Brother Rice finished runnerup in the eight-team tournament, dropping a 62-49 decision in Saturday’s championship to the hosts.
Mike Shepski and Josh Niego made the all-tournament team for the Crusaders.
Lisle Thanksgiving Tournament
Evergreen Park placed second in the five-team tournament. After beating Lisle and Westmont, the Mustangs dell to Timothy Christian on Friday before recovering for a 65-41 win over Yorkville Christian on Saturday.
Mike Drynan, a 6-foot-10 senior, had 13 points in the Yorkville tilt.