ST. CHARLES – Eleven players took the court for the St. Charles East boys basketball team Friday and – unfortunately for the Saints – none of them really had an answer for slowing down Elgin’s Arie Williams.
The 5-foot-9 senior guard burned East for 35 points to help the Maroons (13-13, 3-9 Upstate Eight Conference River Division) edge the Saints on senior night, 70-67.
“It was nice to pull one out,” Williams said. “We’ve been struggling down the stretch [of games] all year, so to pull this one out on the road and kind of spoil their senior night like St. Charles North spoiled ours was pretty nice.”
East (15-9, 8-4) simply did not have anyone who could handle guarding Williams one-on-one.
“Arie Williams is a heck of a player,” East coach Pat Woods said. “We tried a lot of different things. Credit him, man. He killed us.”
Williams was accurate from the field, hitting on 86 percent of his shots, including six shots from beyond the 3-point line. When the Saints tried to pressure him outside, however, he used his quickness to get to the hoop for easy layups.
East’s best defense against Williams may have been not to guard him at all. He was just 5 for 10 from the free-throw line.
“Maybe that’s the defense if we see him again in regionals,” Woods joked. “We’ll foul him every time.”
Williams missed a pair of free throws with seven seconds left in the game that gave the Saints one last chance to avoid defeat, but Elgin came out in an extended 1-2-2 zone defense designed to challenge any 3-point attempts and Dom Adduci’s long attempt at the buzzer over a taller defender was off the mark.
“When they came out in that zone it kind of caught us off guard,” East senior Ben Skoog said. “The plan was to get it into Cole [Gentry’s] hands and for Cole to make a move for Jake [Asquini] because Jake was hot tonight.”
Asquini was just as torrid shooting from 3-point range as Williams. The 6-1 sophomore scored 21 points, all from beyond the arc.
His last trey tied the game at 65 with 2:40 left on the clock, forcing the Maroons to finally put Williams on him defensively.
“He made that switch himself,” Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. “He said, ‘I’ll take [No.] 33,’ because he was torching everybody else. He stepped up and wanted to guard their best shooter late in the game and he did a nice job taking away what they wanted to do.”
The Saints put an all-senior starting lineup on the floor and they did a good job early. East got a pair of tip-in baskets from Jimmy Liss and Tyler Windau and a 3-pointer from Joren Wilson to jump out to a 7-3 lead, but then Williams started heating up.
He hit a trio of 3-pointers in quick succession and wound up scoring 16 points in the first quarter to boost Elgin to a 19-12 lead and the Saints would spend much of the night trying to dig out of similar-sized holes.
“We were a little out of sync for a good part of the night,” Woods said. “We had a little trouble rotating defensively. We didn’t shoot terrible from the field. We didn’t get to the free-throw line enough, so we weren’t attacking the basket. I thought we did a decent job on the boards.”
Skoog had nine rebounds to go along with seven points. Gentry was one of the few Saints to successfully attack the basket, scoring 18 points. Senior Ethan Griffiths added six points.
Junior Isaiah Butler had a strong game for Elgin, scoring 17 points to help take some of the pressure off Williams.