ELGIN – Nobody really wants to play in a third-place game.
After all, it means you had a shot at playing in a championship game and did not succeed.
But if you find yourself in a third-place game – as the Batavia boys basketball team did Saturday night in the 38th Annual Elgin Holiday Tournament – you may as well make the best of it. Jake Pollack and the Bulldogs certainly succeeded at that in a 75-65 victory over Las Vegas (Nev.) Centennial.
Pollack, a senior guard, had the hot shooting hand for Batavia (7-8), scoring 25 points.
“I was feeling confident,” Pollack said. “I got my shots from my teammates’ drives, so it’s thanks to them.”
Pollack said the Bulldogs wanted to wear down Centennial’s defense with drives out of the three-man weave Batavia ran.
“I thought all tournament we did a really good job of … hitting the open guy and then hitting the next guy, maybe a finish guy or a guy for an open shot,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said.
“That team only has three losses on the season. One of them was last night; one of them was tonight. They’re a great team.”
Centennial (11-3) boasts a pair of twin stars bound for Stanford next season.
Marcus Allen finished with 24 points against Batavia, one more than his sibling, Malcolm.
“Those two twins – they can get a shot whenever they want,” Nazos said. “They’re going to get the shot off. You just want to make it contested with a hand in their face. That’s the best thing you can do. We really tried to limit them just touching the ball. There’s an opportunity for them to get a good-looking shot every time they touch it.”
The first half was a highly entertaining back-and-forth battle with a lot of hot shooting by both teams and not a lot of defense, resulting in a 38-38 tie at the break. The Allen brothers accounted for all but five of their team’s points, while Pollack (15) and Micah Coffey (12) did most of the scoring for Batavia.
The Bulldogs led, 52-50, late in the third quarter, but went on a 13-0 run to take control of the game. Held scoreless in the first half, Batavia senior guard Mike Rueffer scored nine of his 11 points in the third quarter, connecting on a pair of three-pointers during the decisive run sandwiched around a pair of nice interior moves for buckets by Mike Carlson (13 points).
“I thought we rebounded real well there in the third quarter,” Nazos said. “We were able to get out and find open guys.”
Pollack capped the run with a three-pointer from the right side to put Batavia up 65-50 early in the fourth quarter. Centennial battled back to within eight at 67-59 thanks to some strong inside play by 6-foot-6 junior Eddie Davis (7 points, 7 rebounds), but a Zach Strittmatter (4 points, 7 rebounds) jam with just over two minutes left put the Bulldogs back up by 12 and basically sealed Centennial’s fate.
“That’s probably Batavia’s best outing of the year,” Centennial coach Todd Allen said. “They hit a lot of open shots. We weren’t in it, but give them credit. They did what they had to do; They really slowed us down.”