GLEN ELLYN – The St. Charles East boys basketball team is finding out life without its best player is going to be tough.
After dispatching Evanston at the buzzer Saturday, the Saints hit the road Tuesday for the first time without Kendall Stephens, who is awaiting season ending surgery on his shoulder.
With the Purdue recruit relegated to cheerleader, East let a fourth quarter lead slip away in a disappointing 63-56 loss at the hands of Glenbard West.
The Saints led for most of the game and were clinging to a 46-42 advantage early in the fourth quarter after aCole Gentry floater in the lane.
Glenbard West capitalized on an East (10-5) cold spell as the Hilltoppers went on a 7-0 to take a 49-46 lead on a Corey Davis 3-point play.
The Hilltoppers (9-4) staved off a late East rally by going 14 for 14 from the free-throw line in the last 1:58 to earn the non-conference win.
“We had zero value for the basketball tonight. I told them one thing after the game tonight and that was that we don’t value the basketball,” East coach Pat Woods said. “We won in every other category other than turnovers, it’s that simple. We’re not in-sync yet offensively.”
East had chances with less than two minutes to go to make it a one possession game but either missed a shot or turned the ball over.
Dom Adduci, who led the Saints with 19 points, made it 57-54 with 35 seconds to go after converting a 3-point play.
The Saints would get no closer as Glenbard West didn’t miss from the free-throw line the rest of the way.
Hilltoppers’ guard Keith Hayes was the biggest thorn in East’s side, knocking down 17 of 18 shots from the line, including 8-8 with under a minute to go. In all, Hayes exploded for a game-high 30 points.
“Our team executed our press attack really well. My teammates set screen to get me open, and that’s how I got the ball,” Hayes said. “We picked up the defensive intensity at the end. It was all about our confidence. We shoot about a 100 free-throws in practice so we’re prepared in the game.”
Along with getting burned at the free-throw line, the Saints were less than stellar defensively when it counted most.
Along with turning the ball over, East’s defense allowed 27 Glenbard West fourth quarter-points, including 14 from Hayes.
“Good for him [Hayes] for shooting well, but most of his points came from the line,” Woods said. “Our thought our zone was good, but when you are losing because you turn the ball over so much you can’t stay in the zone, and you have to go out and guard someone. Right now, we’re not very good at closing people out defensively, and they got to the basket way to easily.”
East only trailed once before the fourth quarter, as the Saints’ got contributions from starters A.J. Washington and David Mason. Washington finished with 13 points while Mason chipped in eight, all of which came in the first quarter.
“I think we got sped up too much and kept making mistakes and we were just chasing,” Mason said. “With Kendall out, I think we need another scoring option to help out the team. I just need to help out down low and be another scoring option.”
After exploding for 30 points against Evanston, Gentry was in foul for much of the first three quarters, but still finished with eight points.
Davis pitched in 12 points for Glenbard West.