BATAVIA – A streaky season with a pair of prolonged losing streaks has tested the Batavia boys basketball team’s resolve.
Drawing upon that rocky road might have helped prevent the Bulldogs from caving when adversity struck Monday as Batavia thrived in the fourth quarter of a 61-52 IHSA Class 4A Batavia Regional opening win against Plainfield East.
After a slow start for the Bengals, Plainfield East threatened to overtake Batavia at key junctures of the second half, but the Bulldogs never let it happen.
“I think it was a byproduct of how we’ve been all year,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “Some things you don’t change overnight. I think our composure’s been good. We’ve battled back a lot this year with games and kind of been right there down the stretch. We’ve never panicked, we’ve never acted out, we’ve never had a look of whining or anything.
“I think we’ve got a mature group in that way on the floor.”
Batavia (12-14) advances to face top-seeded Oswego in tonight’s regional semifinal at 6 p.m.
Plainfield East, which trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, tied the game at 39-all on a rimmed-in 3-pointer by junior Myles Ward with 30 seconds left in the third quarter. But Batavia senior point guard Mike Rueffer notched a 3-point play to give the Bulldogs a 42-39 lead at the end of the quarter, and senior forward Mike Carlson scored and was fouled on the first possession of the fourth quarter.
A driving layup by Jake Pollack and two Carlson free throws completed a 9-0 Bulldogs spurt to give No. 17 seed Batavia a 48-39 lead with 5:35 to go.
The 16th-seeded Bengals cut the deficit to five three times from there but could come no closer.
The Bulldogs’ shooting was chilly during a slide late in the regular season but Batavia snipers Micah Coffey and Jake Pollack rediscovered their shooting strokes at a fortuitous time, drilling three 3-pointers apiece in the first half.
For the game, Pollack scored 17 points and Coffey added 16. Coffey said the team continued to believe it could be effective beyond the arc.
“Especially being in our own gym, being used to these hoops and stuff like that,” Coffey said. “Shooting woes, they happen. We just have to recognize that. We’ve been hitting the practice floor hard, getting up some 3s. It’s not a confidence factor. Our confidence has still been up.”
Batavia jumped to a 13-4 lead after the first quarter but the Bengals’ offense came untracked in the second quarter. Still, the Bulldogs held a 29-25 halftime advantage, thanks largely to Coffey’s 11 points in the second quarter.
Less than four minutes into the third quarter, the Bengals caught the Bulldogs, 31-all, but they could never grab the lead.
The Bulldogs will be huge underdogs tonight against a dynamic Oswego squad.
“Those are as good of guards as you’re going to see or play against in the state, but I think every player [in the locker room] is welcoming the opportunity,” Nazos said.