Top teams win big, set up important weekend

January 20, 2010

J.D. Danforth of Auburn follows through on a shot against two defenders against Waukegan. Danforth scored 25 points, 23 in the first half, in a 73-66 loss to top-ranked Waukegan. Photo by Matt Nestor

By Matt Nestor

Sports Columnist

Boylan, Jefferson, Hononegah and Auburn all won big over the weekend, creating more distance between themselves and the rest of the conference pack, and also setting up a pivotal weekend for the conference.

The Titans got 25 points from Chris Miller and another 17 from Nick Bauch to top the Guilford Vikings by a score of 92-62. That pushed the Titans to 7-0 in the conference. They meet Freeport Friday, Jan. 22, in their only conference game of the week.

The Vikings were led in the game with 17 points from Brandon Blankenship. He scored 16 the following night, while Kimble scored 21 in a 70-62 win over Elgin Larkin.

Jefferson cruised to victories over Belvidere and Elgin to stay a game-and-a-half behind the Titans. Balance was the key again for the J-Hawks, as different players led them in scoring in each game.

Hononegah outlasted Belvidere North 44-38 in a slugfest, holding off a strong fourth-quarter push.

Auburn picked up a 75-57 victory over Harlem, led by another 26 points from J.D. Danforth.

Freeport also topped East to get a firm grip on fifth place in the conference, while the Blue Thunder topped rival Belvidere to tie Harlem for sixth place.

Boylan leads the conference, while Jefferson sits 6-1. Hononegah and Auburn are at 5-1. The Titans have wins over all three teams.

But a pivotal weekend awaits the conference standings, and especially the Knights.

Auburn will be at Jefferson Friday night, Jan. 22, followed by a home game against Hononegah. This stretch of games will go a long way toward determining where the Knights finish in the conference.

“As far as conference play goes, that is the toughest weekend of back-to-back games we are going to see,” Auburn coach Bryan Ott said. “That is no slight against anyone else. But the records are obvious. The talent level on Jefferson is extremely high. Hononegah is very skilled again, and very deep.”

Hononegah also has a home match-up with Belvidere, while the J-Hawks also get another home game against Harlem.

Auburn has the most to gain or lose over the weekend. They can either establish themselves as the second-best team in the conference, or find themselves firmly entrenched in fourth place.

Boylan has the most to gain out of the weekend. If they can beat Freeport, they can hope to watch some of the other contenders knock each other off while the Titans can build their conference lead.

While Ott is happy with his team’s play recently, he hopes his team doesn’t become satisfied with their improved play.

“Just because we played with (top-ranked Waukegan) and had a chance to win doesn’t mean now we have the whole conference figured out,” Ott said after an impressive weekend performance. “(Against Harlem) and last week, in conference play, we showed a great deal of improvement to where we had been prior to Christmas. And that is what our focus has been on.”

Share your thoughts with Matt Nestor via e-mail at sportsnest@gmail.com.

From the Jan. 20-26, 2010 issue

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