By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
For the first few minutes of Rockford Lutheran’s match-up against Oregon Saturday, Jan. 7, both offenses struggled. But as the Crusaders were finding their shot, they made sure the Hawks couldn’t find theirs.
Oregon took 14 shots in the first quarter, but thanks to a swarming full-court trap, the Hawks could only muster 24 shots in the final three quarters, turning the ball over repeatedly as Lutheran used easy baskets to cruise to a 77-42 victory.
“Our kids work on the trap and the full-court press virtually every day,” Lutheran Head Coach Tom Guse said. “We should be getting better; it’s midway through the year, and our kids take pride in it.”
The Crusaders got off to a slow start, but recovered quickly as sophomore Thomas Kopelman scored 7 of his 13 points in the first and freshman Nate Wieting poured in 5 of his 9 points.
From there, the defense dominated, not only keeping Oregon from getting shots off, but going long stretches without letting them get the ball past half court.
“I’m pretty happy with their effort,” Guse said. “I’ve been happy with their effort all year, but there was a sense of a different type of focus than we’ve had all year.”
After sitting out the first quarter, Teyvious Montgomery took the middle quarters over. The senior forward made several nice passes for assists, threw down a thunderous dunk on a steal, and even hit a 3 at the third quarter buzzer on his way to 15 points.
Derek Seyller hit two 3-point shots on his way to 10 points, and Tarence Roby made several athletic layups while scoring 9 points. Drew Rhea led the way for Oregon with 20 points.
The Crusaders have only two losses this season, both coming to a seasoned Byron Tigers team, which Lutheran will see at least one more time in the regular season and potentially later if both could reach the sectionals.
While Byron has a team that has a lot of experience playing together, the Crusaders have a talented mix of transfers and younger players whom they are trying to bring together. But Guse said they are starting to come together at the right time.
“I’ve been telling the kids all year we haven’t played together very much,” he said. “Our ceiling of getting better and meshing together as a team will only get better as the year goes on.”
In NIC-10 action
The race for the NIC-10 title saw the first-place tie shrink from four teams to three over the weekend, but the race feels as tight as ever.
In a match-up of first-place teams, Rockford Boylan hit 22 of 24 free throws on their way to a 58-51 victory over the Freeport Pretzels. Adonis Brown made half of those free throws in scoring 19 points.
The Boylan Titans got out to a big lead in the game early, but Luke Norman helped Freeport fight back, cutting the lead down to 2 on several occasions.
While the Titans notched another victory over a top team, the Pretzels did come away feeling good, getting 21 points from Norman and fighting hard without Quavion Scott, who was unavailable to play.
With the Titans winning, Rockford Auburn did their best to keep pace. The Knights did so in topping Machesney Park Harlem 87-80 after entering the fourth quarter down by 1 point.
Justin Van Wambeke scored 25 points for Harlem, and Michael Proscia helped out with 20. Auburn’s Fred Van Vleet led all scorers with 28 points while LaMark Foote, Javauntae Hicks, Elijah Smith and Tremel Rideout all scored in double figures for the Knights.
Rockton Hononegah also stayed part of the first-place tie, extending a 1-point lead after three quarters to a 55-47 win over Rockford Jefferson. Jacob Doyle led the way for the Indians with 16 points, while LT Davis of Jefferson matched his 16.
In one of the most interesting developments of the night, Rockford East topped Belvidere North 60-55 to stay a game back of first. But while the road win was important enough for the E-Rabs, just as important was 18 points from senior Steve McNease, who has struggled this year and may be ready to break out.
Rockford Guilford also picked up their second conference win of the year, getting nice play from Marcus Hardison and Alex Trautmann on their way to a 69-65 victory over Belvidere. The Vikings are on a season-high three-game winning streak.
From the Jan. 11-17, 2012, issue