ELGIN – With his team hanging on to a one-point lead against Elgin on Friday in Upstate Eight Conference River Division action, St. Charles East’s Kendall Stephens showed why he will attend Purdue University next season.
The senior took over offensively and defensively, scoring eight points during a 13-1 East run, and the visiting Saints were in command from there en route to a 57-43 victory.
“We kind of were struggling offensively, so we had to do it on the defensive end,” said Stephens, who scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and had three steals.
“The game is more than just offense. It is the defensive end, rebounding.”
After Elgin’s Eric Sedlack hit a pair of free throws early in the fourth quarter to cut the Saints’ lead to 37-35, Stephens drilled a 3-pointer, then fed Dom Adduci with a behind-the-back pass for a bucket.
Then, after a free throw from the Maroons’ Tanner Bednar, Stephens came up with a steal and 3-point play to increase the lead to 45-36 with 4:47 left in the game.
Elgin’s Arie Williams responded with a free throw, but Stephens came back with a put-back bucket and then fed A.J. Washington for a dunk to put the game out of reach, 50-36, late in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we were a lot more active and played with a lot more urgency toward the end,” Saints coach Pat Woods.
“We had the run and the momentum, but the three Kendall hit really kind of killed us,” Williams said.
East (8-2, 3-1) used double teams and a pressure defense to try to contain Williams, who led Elgin (5-6, 1-4) with 24 points but seemed to tire late in the game as the Saints forced the Maroons into 31 turnovers.
“We focused on [forcing turnovers] a lot in practice, running and jumping, knowing which guys to run off of,” Stephens said. “We executed in the second half.”
“The pressure kind of wears me out,” Williams said. “It is tough sometimes when [things are] not going your way and you turn the ball over.
“I feel like a lot of people were hesitant and did not know what to do with the ball.”
Elgin led, 14-13, after the first quarter, but East used a 7-0 second-quarter run to take a 24-17 lead and finish the quarter ahead 26-20. The Maroons cut the lead to 37-33 after three quarters.
Adduci finished with 13 points and Washington tallied 11.
Woods said pressuring Williams was a big key to the win.
“We knew we had to stop Arie,” he said. “He’s a heck of a player. We tried to double him all over the place. We had trouble staying with him, but in the end he got tired.”
Sedlack scored 10 points and Bednar grabbed 15 rebounds for the Maroons.
“Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers,” said Elgin coach Mike Sitter. “We are not good enough that if we do not get a shot off every time down the court we’re going to win.
“We have seen that same defense five games in a row. Sometimes we handled it well, sometimes we haven’t. We just need to take care of the ball better.
“If they are going to make Arie give up the ball, he has to have confidence in his teammates to make plays and his teammates are going to have to make those plays.
“We kept trying to pass the ball over a 6-5 guy (Stephens) who has a wing span like a 7-footer. You are not going to throw it over his head. We looked like a grade school team out there.”
Elgin’s Isaiah Butler missed the game with a broken right hand and a strained MCL. He is due back in two or three weeks, Sitter said.