One of the bright spots in Batavia's 2-5 start has been the play of junior forward Chasen Peez, who been the Bulldogs' most consistent offensive threat in the season's first month.
The 6-foot-6, 205-pound varsity newcomer's latest impressive outing came Saturday, when Peez led the Bulldogs with 21 points in a 69-65 loss to Larkin.
Peez has shown the ability to score both on the interior and from beyond the 3-point arc. Bulldogs coach Jim Nazos is high on the forward's upside.
"Chasen can do a lot of nice things offensively," Nazos said. " … As you play against the better teams, there are a lot of little things you can do better within the game that he's finding out right now that I think are really going to make him the player he wants to be.
"Sometimes he just thinks the size can get a board, and it can't. You've got to get position first. Sometimes he's about a step off of the help [defense]. I think once he gets going fluidly on both ends, he's going to be a very nice player. I think his best basketball is ahead of him."
Peez also has shown he's unafraid to take big shots. His 3-pointer with 1:34 to play Saturday tied the Larkin game at 65.
"That kid has soaked up a lot of coaching," Batavia senior Micah Coffey said. "He's got some unbelievable talent. Everyone can see he can shoot, he can get in the post. … Obviously he can get better, but he's been a huge [addition] to this team. I'm proud of the way he's been able to take coaching and kind of get through some things, how he's battled some injuries. So I'm proud of the way he's playing."
Batavia has dropped four games in a row heading into a week in which the Bulldogs play both St. Charles schools – North on Thursday, East on Saturday. The Bulldogs likely will be without reserve forward Tucker Knox, who suffered an apparent ankle injury against Larkin and was on crutches after the game.
Nazos noted that Batavia has held leads in the fourth quarter in each of its losses except the Geneva game.
"We're moving in the right direction," Nazos said. "You'd like to see it get rewarded with a win a little bit, too, but that's coming."
Knights get lift from Barnes
Kaneland junior guard Ben Barnes was a surprise scoring leader for the Knights in Friday's 83-63 win against Rochelle. Barnes came off the bench to score 16 points, a season high.
"He hasn't gotten a ton of playing time but has been playing very well at practice as of late," Knights coach Brian Johnson said. "He got a nice opportunity against Rochelle. He's very quick and was able to capitalize on some turnovers and missed shots from Rochelle to get something down the floor very fast."
Barnes, listed at 5-foot-10, is a quality long jumper in the Knights' track and field program. If he continues to produce off the bench, Johnson said it would be a boost for the Knights' backcourt rotation.
"We ride Drew (David) and John (Pruett) and Tyler (Carlson) very hard during games," Johnson said. "They play a lot of minutes. It's nice to be able to get Drew and John some breathers here and there and have an option [in addition to] Connor Fedderly, with Ben Barnes. It gives us a chance to give some breathers to some of the guys."
On the flip side of Kaneland's depth equation, Johnson said 6-foot-5 sophomore Jacob Gomes likely will be out of action with a foot injury until January. Gomes last played in the Knights' loss at Sycamore on Dec. 6.
Christmas tourneys approaching
Most of the Christmas-time tournament pairings have been finalized, with the seeding meeting for the Plano Christmas Classic on Monday night one of the final pieces of the tournament puzzle for area teams.
St. Charles North (at Pontiac) and St. Charles East (at Proviso West) continue to be part of two of the state's most prestigious tournament fields.
In fact, North could face four-time defending Class 4A state champion Simeon in the second round at Pontiac if North is able to win its opening round matchup against Bloomington on Dec. 26.
East opens play at Proviso West against Uplift on Dec. 23 and will face either Morton or Gage Park in the second round. Wheaton Academy, also part of the Proviso West field, starts tournament play against New Trier.
– Jay Schwab, firstname.lastname@example.org
COACH SLY SAYS
St. Charles North deserves props for the strong start to the season. Especially for only returning one starter, it's pretty darn impressive that the North Stars have arguably played as well as any team in the area in the season's opening weeks.
Now who's playing well in November and December doesn't always equate to who's playing well in January, February and March, but the North Stars' strong start bodes well, and is a credit to the team's offseason efforts.
IN THE GROOVE
Zach Prociuk, St. Francis, Sr., G
What he did: Prociuk scored 24 points on Saturday to help put St. Francis over the top in the Spartans' 77-74, double overtime win at Aurora Christian. Prociuk also led his team with 17 points in Tuesday's 59-55 loss at Wheaton Academy.
AJ Washington, St. Charles East, Sr., F
What he did: Washington's defense on Geneva standout Nate Navigato drew heaping praise after Friday's East win over the Vikings, and on Saturday Washington put on a crowd-pleasing dunk display as the Saints routed Streamwood.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Even thrilling games sometimes yield anticlimactic finishes. Geneva had the ball out of bounds under its offensive basket, trailing by two points with 3.5 seconds to go, as the Vikings sought to come all the way back from an 18-point deficit Friday against St. Charles East. But Navigato was called for an offensive foul before the Vikings had a chance to inbound it, wiping out a chance for a buzzer-beater.
"The only issue that we had is that I think they knew the play was coming a little bit," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "We probably needed to have a secondary action off of that."
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether a Tri-Cities team can close the deal against UEC River power Larkin.
St. Charles North and Batavia both had fourth quarter leads against the Royals last week but ended up losing. Larkin visits Geneva on Friday.