Williams, Elgin bring St. Charles East boys basketball’s season to close
ST. CHARLES – The two stars battled each other to a draw, so with Friday’s IHSA Class 4A St. Charles North Regional championship on the line, someone else was going to have to step up for St. Charles East or Elgin.
That someone turned out to be Elgin junior Arie Williams.
East junior Kendall Stephens and Elgin senior Kory Brown each finished with 24 points, but it was the 14 points scored by Williams, a 5-foot-8 guard, that proved to be the difference in the Maroons’ 57-52 victory. Williams scored seven of those points in the fourth quarter, a period in which Brown was unusually quiet until the end.
“When I stepped up, it was to help us win right now,” Williams said. “Kory does a phenomenal job all the time. When he needed help, I gave him that help.”
Williams also scored the first two points of the game for Elgin (25-3) after the Saints (15-13) jumped out to a quick 10-0 lead behind the shooting of Stephens and sophomore guard Dom Adduci (10 points).
“We came out ready to play,” East coach Pat Woods said. “Our kids … they were so focused. [Elgin] wanted to win. They didn’t want the season to end.”
The Maroons spent the rest of the first half chipping away at the East lead. Brown’s right baseline drive with under a minute left in the second quarter pulled Elgin to within 27-26 at the half.
East senior Johnny Hondlik, who finished with 10 points, scored the first three points of and the final two the third quarter, but in between the Maroons outscored the Saints 13-2. Brown scored 10 of those points, posting up inside, driving the lane, going coast-to-coast with one of his dozen rebounds, and connecting on four straight free throws.
“He’s a phenomenal player. Thank God he’s gone next year,” Woods said. “He’s so tough to stop, and then when you complement him with Williams, who’s a good shooter, it makes it tough to help [on defense].”
Stephens was quiet in the third quarter, but he made his presence known loud and clear in the fourth, scoring 11 points. The Saints were down 39-34 as the final quarter began, but Stephens hit a three from the right corner to pull East within one at 44-43. Moments later, he appeared to tie the game with another three-pointer, but the officials ruled that he had a foot on the line.
Williams answered with an old-fashioned three-point play on a drive to the basket. Stephens hit a contested jumper to cut the Elgin lead to 49-47, but Williams responded with a jumper from the free-throw line and the Saints couldn’t get closer than three the rest of the way.
“They just made shots when they needed to,” East senior Charlie Fisher said. “We just couldn’t stop them in the last seconds when they had that very short lead.”
Hondlik hit a three from five feet beyond the arc with just under a minute to play to pull the Saints within three and East had a chance to possibly tie the game after Williams missed the front end of a one-and-one with 46 seconds left. But Brown came out of nowhere to block what looked like an easy basket for Luke Ludke off an inbounds pass, then connected on a free throw with 23 seconds left to extend the Elgin lead to four.
“They did give us a push,” Brown said. “It was a great game. All of them played very well. Kendall knocked down some very key three-pointers and mid-range jumpers.”
Stephens is sometimes criticized for not being physical enough, but his performance against Elgin should dispel some of that talk. The Maroons gave football standout Dennis Moore the assignment to guard him, but Stephens didn’t back down from any contact, even initiating it from time to time to get open. Stephens also grabbed 10 rebounds, helping the Saints win the battle on the boards, 28-23.
“Kendall, man, that’s my former [club] teammate,” Williams noted. “That’s my dude, but when it comes to this game, we’re enemies. He’s a great shooter. He’s a great scorer. That’s a good team right there we just beat. Now we have to go on to the next step.”
That next step will be a Dundee-Crown Sectional semifinal against McHenry on Wednesday.
The Saints, meanwhile, will reflect on what might have been.
“You can’t hang your head over the season, even though we lost this game,” Fisher said. “We came together as a group with a new coach, which was hard. Usually most teams with a new coach end up with a losing record, but everyone came together … It was a good season overall for us.”