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Batavia boys basketball battles back but falls to Elgin

ELGIN –The bite of the spider monkey proved fatal for the Batavia boys basketball team Saturday night.

“Spider monkey” is the name Elgin’s players came up with for the full-court, trapping, man-to-man defense they employed to great effect against the Bulldogs in a 59-57 Upstate Eight Conference River Division victory.

“We played a zone last week against St. Charles [East] and we just sat back in it and let them run their offense and they pretty much pounded us,” Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. “We said no matter what we do, we’re not going to let [Batavia] run their sets. We’re not going to let them run their offense. So we put in a new defense called the spider monkey and we just wanted to get after it and get all over the court, and we did.”

The Maroons (6-10, 2-3) forced the Bulldogs into 11 turnovers in the opening quarter, which ended with Elgin ahead, 24-10.

“Elgin did a lot of things really good in that first half,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “They shot the ball really well. They created chaos, created a lot of turnovers.”

The slow start for the Bulldogs came one night after they scored just nine points in the opening half of a loss to archrival Geneva. Batavia junior Danny Pieczynski was at a loss to explain the team’s early-game woes.

“I have no clue,” he said. “This is our second time doing this. We did this versus Geneva last night. I really don’t know why we’re doing this, but we’re just beating ourselves.”

Scoring on slashing drives and from 3-point range, Elgin senior guard Isaiah Butler scored the first nine points for the Maroons. He also scored the final two after the Bulldogs battled all the way back in the second half to tie the game at 57 with 37 second left. Butler, who finished with a team-high 18 points, lost the handle on the ball on his way to the basket on Elgin’s last possession, but he recovered his fumble quickly and threw up a shot from just left of the lane that went in with 2 seconds remaining on the clock.

“He can create on his own, so we wanted the ball in his hands,” Sitter said. “If something breaks down and somebody else has the ball, maybe they can’t create, but he can, so that helps us out.”

The Bulldogs (6-11, 1-6 UEC River) trailed, 39-25, at the half, but scored the first 10 points of the second half to quickly get back into the game. Pieczynski hit a pair of triples and scored on a fast-break layup during that stretch on his way to 20 points.

“We started rebounding, playing defense, cut the turnovers,” Pieczynski said of Batavia’s second-half surge. “We just started executing on offense.”

The Bulldogs lost the ball 17 times on turnovers in the first half, but were guilty of just eight in the second half.

“We played a pretty good second half, but we got too far down,” Nazos said. “The second half, we played exactly like we wanted to play. We took care of the ball within reason in the second half.”

Batavia trailed, 54-49, with under 3 minutes to play, but Micah Coffey (10 points) hit a big 3-pointer from the left corner while drawing a foul and hit the ensuing free-throw to make it a one-point game. The Bulldogs finally tied it on consecutive baskets by Tucker Knox (15 points, seven rebounds).

“He rebounds the ball well. He’s been coming all year,” Nazos said. “He’s been doing better and better each passing game. He’s playing exactly like we all think he can.”

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