BATAVIA – The Batavia boys basketball team hasn’t won in almost a month and the season record isn’t pretty, but a case can be made that the Bulldogs are playing their best ball at the right time of year.
Despite home losses Friday against St. Charles North and Saturday against St. Joseph, the Bulldogs (6-15) made it clear over the weekend that their resolve to make progress remains in full effect.
Batavia was especially impressive in its Jim & Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops clash with St. Joseph on Saturday night, drawing within one point of the perennial power Chargers in the closing minutes before falling, 58-51.
“The underdogs that we were in that game, to come out and put on a show like that was a lot of fun,” Batavia senior guard Micah Coffey said.
Coffey added that “now we just take the next step to closing out those games.” Doing so has proven an uphill battle for Batavia this winter, but the Bulldogs are at least putting themselves in position after a midseason lull in which Batavia was often staring down double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter.
The night before the St. Joe game, Batavia trailed another formidable opponent, St. Charles North, by only two points with less than 3 minutes to play before losing, 48-42.
Batavia seemed to make the most of two straight weeks of practice time during which a game in Rock Island was postponed by weather.
“Teams that improve have a chance to do something great this time of year,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “We are settling into an identity. We didn’t rebound well [against St. Joe] but defensively we were in the right spots. We were good on the ball. [St. Joe] made some plays.”
Batavia has lost six straight games since earning its lone conference victory, a 23-point win Jan. 11 at Streamwood. Still, the St. Charles North and St. Joe games suggested a late-season breakthrough isn’t far-fetched.
A potentially peaking frontcourt might be the best cause for Bulldogs optimism.
Senior forward Tucker Knox is coming on strong, most recently with a 13-point performance against St. Joe that included a pair of three-point plays on determined moves to the basket.
“I’m just gaining confidence,” Knox said. “Just scoring points in games and practice and working on stuff. The ball’s just starting to fall for me.”
Batavia also welcomed back junior forward Chasen Peez against St. Joe. Peez saw limited time off the bench after missing almost a month with a stress reaction in his back. Peez leads the team in scoring (13.3 points a game) and rebounding (6.9 a game). If he returns to form, it could go a long way toward fortifying Batavia on the glass, which has been among the team’s main vulnerabilities.
One of the Bulldogs’ four remaining regular season games is against Streamwood, and another win over the Sabres would ensure Batavia does not finish last in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division. Beyond that, the Bulldogs are quick to note that regular season records don’t mean much when it comes to the postseason, and Batavia is working toward becoming a team that can pull a surprise or two come regionals.
“I think we can play with anyone,” Knox said. “We’re there. We have talent. We’ve just got to finish games, and we’ve got to rebound. That’s the biggest thing that’s holding us back right now.”
Remaining upbeat amid mounting losses is difficult but Nazos has praised the Bulldogs’ leadership despite their struggles.
“We’ve got players in our locker room,” Micah Coffey said. “We’ve got guys who love the game of basketball and want to help us succeed, and we’ve got a coach we want to play for.
“It’s easier for me, because I’ve got a little brother [Canaan] worth playing for and a little brother I’m trying to help and help get to the next level. But for the rest of these guys, it’s just love of the game. They love to hit the floor every day and get to work.”