Wheaton Academy is spending a lot of time at the free-throw line this season, and the Warriors aren’t wasting their trips.
Friday’s comeback win against Marmion was the latest example of Wheaton Academy (8-1, 3-0 Suburban Christian Conference Blue) making teams pay for fouling.
“We’ve won a lot of close games on our free-throw shooting, and that’s been the trademark of our team thus far this season,” Wheaton Academy coach Paul Ferguson said.
The Warriors are shooting about 75 percent percent as a team, with Brandon Ruggles, Collin Roy and Gabe Partain among the team’s most reliable foul shooters.
Not only are the Warriors shooting at a high percentage, they’ve also been effective in drawing contact, Ferguson said. Ferguson said he didn’t realize the Warriors would be so proficient at the line coming into the season.
“I knew we were a good outside shooting team, I guess I didn’t realize we’d be this good from the free-throw line, but part of the key is getting a lot of high percentage shots in our offense, so we’re actually getting to the free throw line a lot, too,” Ferguson said.
The Warriors have already defeated all three of the SCC Blue’s Aurora opponents – Aurora Central Catholic, Aurora Christian and Marmion. Wheaton Academy’s toughest conference opposition figures to come from St. Francis, the program that has been the Warriors’ postgame nemesis in recent seasons.
This year, Wheaton Academy’s lone loss came against highly regarded St. Viator.
Geneva junior Jason D’Amico gave the Vikings solid minutes off the bench Friday, scoring nine points in the Vikings’ Upstate Eight Conference River win against Streamwood.
It was arguably the sharpest performance of the young season for D’Amico, whose older brother, Jeremy, had plenty of monster games in a Vikings uniform. The boys’ father, former Geneva assistant coach Mark D’Amico, missed the Geneva game Friday while watching Jeremy’s college game. Jeremy D’Amico now plays for Cardinal Strich (Wis.) after transferring from Eckerd College (Fla.).
Jason, five inches shorter than the 6-6 Jeremy, is a more perimeter-oriented player than his brother, not that he hasn’t tried to glean a few things from his brother’s game.
“I try to do some pull-up jumpers like Jer used to do,” Jason said. “Still can’t perfect it.”
The Vikings are dealing with several injuries, making contributions like D’Amico’s off the bench Friday especially valuable.
“I’m hoping that kind of wakes him up a little bit,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “We’ve known that he’s had some ability. He started off the season with a little bit of an injury, and he’s kind of fought through it. Hopefully this will help give him a little bit of confidence and maybe help get him to push himself a little bit harder in practices and games.”
On the board
Burlington Central became the last area team to taste victory Saturday, defeating Rockford Christian, 61-38, in their Big Northern opener.
Central coach Brett Porto has maintained his Rockets would be OK long-term, even as they stumbled to an 0-7 start.
“We’ve played a pretty tough schedule so far in the hopes of preparing us for conference play,” Porto said. “We’re hoping this can get our season back on track.”
IN THE GROOVE
Quinten Payne, St. Charles North, Sr., G
What he did: The third-year North Stars starter provided consistent offense in a pair of conference wins for North, scoring 20 points in Thursday's victory at Batavia and 23 in Saturday's win against Elgin.
Geneva defense The Vikings limited Streamwood to 11 points in the first half of Friday's UEC River win against the Sabres en route to a comfortable 59-33 win.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK All-important sectional assignments.
Around the Tri-Cities, Batavia and Geneva are headed to the 4A Bolingbrook Sectional, while St. Charles East and St. Charles North will take part in a 4A South Elgin Regional that includes fellow UEC River contender Larkin. The South Elgin Regional feeds into the DeKalb Sectional.
In Class 3A, Kaneland, Aurora Central Catholic, Marmion, St. Francis and Wheaton Academy all share the 3A IMSA Regional, while 1A rivals Mooseheart and Hinckley-Big Rock are both ticketed for the 1A Westminster Christian Regional.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN FROM THE WEEK AHEAD Whether Geneva or St. Charles North will be the team that remains among the cluster of one-loss teams in UEC River play. The Vikings visit the North Stars on Friday night. Larkin and St. Charles East also have one loss apiece in conference play.
COACH SLY SAYS
There's been some chatter about the Incredible Shrinking Student Section at Batavia, and that's disheartening to hear.
As anyone familiar with Tri-Cities hoops can tell ya, the tradition of Batavia basketball is second-to-none in our area. The atmosphere at Batavia games has been top-notch, and that starts with a healthy student turnout.
Sure, the Bulldogs have slipped from a wins/losses standpoint the past few years, but the players are still putting out great effort and are competitive just about every time out. It'd be nice to see the current Bulldogs enjoy anything resembling the level of support their sleeve-wearing predecessors used to receive.
Might make for a few more wins, too.