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St. Charles East boys basketball struggles to defend Uplift in tourney-opening test

HILLSIDE – One late sequence summed up the St. Charles East boys basketball team’s 81-71 loss to Uplift in the first round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament Monday afternoon.

With the Saints down by 11 points, Cole Gentry forced a steal but missed a layup that would have cut the Uplift lead to 77-68.

Uplift grabbed the rebound and Saints senior Dom Adduci picked up his fifth foul on a reach-in.

Before fouling out, Adduci had a tough day for East, scoring 11 points while finishing 3 for 14 from the field. Had it not been for Jake Asquini’s five 3-pointers, the Titans’ margin of victory could have been far greater.

“We knew that they had a lot of confidence coming in, obviously, as they were undefeated and we knew they were going to drive on us all day,” Asquini said. “Our game plan was to keep them in front of us and don’t let them drive and force them to shoot. You have to give them credit, though, they hit big shots and we weren’t expecting them to shoot like that.”

East (5-5) used a big first half from Mick Vyzral to keep pace early and trailed, 37-34, at halftime. The 6-foot-5 junior scored seven of his 10 first-half points in the second quarter, including a put-back that cut the Uplift lead to 35-34 right before halftime.

The game began to open up more at the start of the third quarter, with both teams trading transition baskets. AJ Washington was active inside, throwing down a pair of emphatic dunks, including a two-handed alley-oop on a lob from Gentry. Washington’s second dunk, a one-handed tomahawk from the left baseline, cut the Uplift lead to 44-40.

East would get no closer as the Titans (12-0) used a pair of lay-ins from Quintin Olagbegi and a jumper from Augustin Tronou that made it 52-44 with 1:08 to go in the third quarter. Uplift went on an 8-3 run at the start of the fourth quarter that was punctuated by a 3-pointer from Deshon Fluckes and a hard-fought putback from Jamaya Wyatt that gave the Titans their biggest lead of the afternoon at 62-49.

“We shot 26 of 65 from the field and we got killed on the boards and we couldn’t stay in front of anyone,” East coach Pat Woods said. “We wanted a test, we got it and we failed, but it’s December and we have a long ways to go.”

A pair of Asquini 3s cut the Uplift lead to nine on both occasions, but the Titans proved to be too athletic offensively as five players scored in double figures.

Tronou, who scored a game-high 21 points for Uplift, went out of his way to prepare for the Saints, specifically Adduci.

“We got ranked and everything at the start of the season but we’ve been eyeing this tournament for a long time; we came in wanting to win the tournament,” Tronou said. “Coach told us to watch games online, but I actually went to a couple of games to watch how [Adduci] played. I kind of knew what he wanted to do, so I just tried to stay in front of him.”

The Saints, who were led by Asquini’s 15 points, will take on Gage Park at 8:30 a.m. Friday in consolation bracket play. 

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