Batavia boys basketball player Mike Rueffer shuns the school cafeteria during lunch lately.
Turns out the end of third block is the best time to be a brown-bagger down the hall.
Strapped for space with after-school spring sports practices occupying the gym during inclement weather, Rueffer has delayed his second meal of the day to go for 3. Thursday’s preliminaries of the Class 4A Three-Point Showdown state final at Carver Arena in Peoria are fast approaching, and the senior guard needed a place to let fly.
“It’s kind of a hassle, but I’ve been practicing then,” Rueffer said. “I just shoot for as long as I can until I get kicked out by the gym teachers.”
With fellow Tri-Cities marksmen Cole Gentry of St. Charles East and Alec Goetz of St. Charles North alongside, Rueffer has advanced to the Showdown’s final 32. Wheaton Academy’s Josh Ruggles is set to shoot in Class 3A. After athletes take turns hoisting 15 3s in 45 seconds, the top four scorers in both classes will advance to Friday’s finals.
Gentry, a sophomore, and Goetz, a junior, have kept after-school practice regimens, albeit at off-campus sites.
Gentry favors XSport Fitness in St. Charles for his offseason workouts, finding he often can get a basket to himself if he goes after doing his homework.
For Goetz, a sibling connection has paved the way to a new shooting spot. The family of his twin sister Mickey’s boyfriend has a full basketball court in a barn on their property.
“It’s got heaters and everything,” Goetz said. “It takes a minute to warm up, but it’s nice. It’s a really cool place.”
Gentry, Goetz and Rueffer each bring arena-shooting experience from their AAU teams. All three spoke with varying concerns about the added variables of open air and depth perception after shooting in high school gyms during the regional and sectional rounds.
Gentry thinks one condition neutralizes everything in a shooting contest.
“There’s nobody on you, so it’s a lot easier than the games, obviously, because you’re not guarded,” he said.
During the Upstate Eight Conference River Division season – and in the case of Gentry and Goetz, the postseason – the Tri-Cities trio spent plenty of time defending one another this winter.
Waiting to shoot before Friday’s 4A DeKalb Sectional final, Gentry and Goetz let their guard down and had their first extensive conversation.
“We were talking about shooting. We were cracking jokes,” Goetz said. “He’s a pretty good guy to talk to. He’s pretty cool. He’s a killer on the court, too.”
“Sharpshooters. I think that’s what the Tri-Cities has been known for,” Rueffer said. “I know that St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia – everyone has had shooters. No one has really been a slack team in the past since I’ve been watching basketball and everyone can shoot.
“It seems to me that the Tri-Cities can light it up on any given night.”
Thursday in Peoria offers the next chance to be clutch.
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.