AURORA – Ugly was a perfect way to describe the way the Batavia boys basketball team played in the first half Friday against Waubonsie Valley.
The Warriors jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the opening moments of the quarter, yet Batavia somehow found itself down, 24-19, at the half.
Batavia buttoned things up in the second half, elevating its defensive pressure and briefly taking the lead before eventually falling, 57-46. Despite the loss, Batavia coach Jim Nazos can sense that big things are ahead for the Bulldogs.
“I thought things changed about four minutes into the first quarter. The first two minutes, they were the first to the ball and the first through a screen,” Nazos said. “The first quarter on and three minutes into the fourth, we were fighting to catch up and came back. I like us right now and I think we have some mental check-outs at times that we have to take care of, but I like this team.”
Batavia (2-4) was indeed checked out for the first couple of minutes of the first quarter as Waubonsie Valley (3-4) forced four straight turnovers, not permitting a Bulldogs shot attempt until five minutes into the quarter.
Undeterred, the Bulldogs slowly whittled played their way back into the contest, climbing to within 19-16 on a Canaan Coffey 3-pointer with 3:52 to go.
Trailing, 24-19, at the break, Batavia used 3-pointers from Tyler Lovestrand, Danny Pieczynski and Chasen Peez to take a 33-30 lead with 3:03 to go in the third quarter.
Peez knocked down another 3 later in the quarter that helped the Bulldogs take a 38-36 advantage into the fourth quarter.
“My coach told me that I have to get back in it and that he trusted me and I have to do better in the second half,” Peez said. “We just needed to stick to what we know, I guess, and run the offense and trust and buy-in completely.”
The Warriors recaptured the lead early in the fourth quarter on five straight points from Chris Karkazis. After Peez was called for an offensive foul, Waubonsie Valley’s Nick Karkazis buried a 3 with 3:52 to go that made it 46-40.
The Batavia offense sputtered thereafter, with Pieczynski missing a point-blank lay-in and Canaan Coffey missing the front-end of a one-and-one bonus free-throw attempt.
A Peez 3 with 1:27 to go cut the lead to 48-43 but the Warriors went 5 for 6 from the line down the stretch to ice the game.
Nazos was pleased that the Bulldogs stayed in the game despite turning the ball over 21 times and trying to get Micah Coffey and Tucker Knox acclimated with the team after returning from the football field.
“We’re taking strides defensively; we’re not there yet but we will just because I’ve seen the strides we’ve taken,” Nazos said. “Once we start getting stronger with the ball and start seeing things offensively, we’re going to get there.”
Waubonsie Valley clamped down on Micah and Canaan Coffey, limiting the sharp-shooters to just one 3-pointer and a combined 10 points on the night. Peez led the Bulldogs with 13 points, 11 of which came in the second half.
“We knew coming in that they could shoot. We knew coming in that Micah was on a high winning the state title in football and the younger one [Canaan] was the leading scorer coming into the game so we knew we had two brothers to stop,” Waubonsie Valley coach Chaz Taft said. “Our emphasis was to get on the two Coffey brothers, limit their touches and try to get them to catch the ball high.”
Jay DeHaan led all scorers with 18 points for Waubonsie Valley while Chris Karkazis added 14.