East boys b-ball 'just gutting it out' in win at Batavia
BATAVIA – Batavia called a 30-second timeout after just 25 seconds of Saturday's boys basketball game against St. Charles East.
Acting swiftly, a member of the Saints student section suggested the Bulldogs were in for a long night.
Not so fast.
East arguably navigated the bumpier road in its 58-52 victory, fighting Kendall Stephens' foul trouble and the Bulldogs' effective box-outs en route to an Upstate Eight Conference River Division win.
Neither the students nor anyone else awarded style points as the Saints filed out of the locker room, which was fine by them.
"Batavia is known for its good atmosphere, a tough game. You're not just going to come in here and beat them by double digits," East sophomore point guard Cole Gentry said. "It's going to be a dogfight, and I really think we made strides as a team because we had to win without Kendall. We learned how to play without him and get it done in the end."
Stephens, a Purdue-bound senior wing, contributed a key spurt before fouling out with 2:04 to play, scoring each of his eight points in just over four minutes of the final quarter.
After Mike Rueffer split a pair of free throws to bring Batavia to within 40-39 with 5:29 remaining, Stephens responded with his first field goal, an open three. With Saints coach Pat Woods joking that the only defense that could stop Stephens was the trio of officials, Stephens played through a pair of offensive fouls.
And, per usual, the torn right labrum he suffered during the first week of practice for the Saints (6-2, 2-1 UEC River).
"Just gutting it out," said Stephens, who was summoned to the bench with his third foul 6:25 before halftime. "It's senior year."
Batavia (2-7, 0-4) suffered its sixth straight loss despite shooting 52.5 percent (21 for 40). The Bulldogs also outrebounded the Saints by eight.
An athletic follow by Zach Strittmatter brought the Bulldogs within 53-49, but the team drew no closer after entering the fourth quarter tied with East at 36-all.
"I think we have the mentality to be a winning team and make a deep run in the playoffs and win some games in this conference," Strittmatter said. "We just need to take that extra step. I guess shooting more shots and staying after practice and working on our game every single day."
Saints junior point guard Dom Adduci led all scorers with 21 points, serving as the team's go-to perimeter threat opposite Batavia's Micah Coffey.
Coffey swished five of his nine attempts from long range to finish with 19 points.
Late in the game, the Saints matched Batavia's strategy against Stephens by staying patient from the outside and attacking Coffey, who also was in foul trouble. With usual starter Dave Mason, a 6-foot-6 junior, out with an illness, East relied on quality minutes from Tyler Windau off the bench.
The Saints converted 16 of 23 free throws, including a 5 for 6 effort from Gentry, who had a career-high 12 points.
"I thought maybe I score a little. Maybe if the team needs it, I get to the line and I create," Gentry said. "I just figured with [Stephens] out, we need somebody besides Dom – and Dom's a great player, he'll score – to kind of create. So I just figured why not me."
Strittmatter (14 points) and hustling guard Jake Pollack (11) also finished in double figures for Batavia.
While Bulldogs coach Jim Nazos acknowledged "there was plenty good" that came from the game, he knew the team's fourth quarter defense against the Saints wasn't on the list.
"If they're going to hit threes, they've got to hit them with our hands in their face, and I think they got a lot of clean looks there late," Nazos said. "That's something we don't ever want to have happen."
He's not kidding. The game's first timeout resulted from Gentry's easy, open three from the right baseline.
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