By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
The season didn’t start the way the Rockford Boylan Titans had hoped. An early loss at home to Rockton Hononegah and a 2-2 showing at the Pekin Holiday Tournament had Boylan struggling at 7-5.
A loss at home to Rockford Auburn wouldn’t ruin the season, though home losses to the Knights as well as Hononegah could make their ultimate goals tough. And a win was not a season-saver, given how much of the season is left.
A solid performance, however, was necessary, and that is exactly what Boylan got. Chase Ferger scored 15 of his 17 points in the first half, and Brock Stull scored 22 points as the Titans topped the Knights 67-54, improving to 8-5 and handing Auburn their first NIC-10 loss of the season.
Both teams were tied at 36 at the half, with Ferger and Stull combining for 28 of Boylan’s 36 points. But the Titans started off the second half with a 5-0 run and pushed their lead to 8 by the end of the third quarter.
“Chase had a hot hand early, and that helped us out a lot,” Stull said. “We executed our sets early in the half. Our guys stepped up, and we had some great streaks.”
The key for the Titans was their defense and rebounding. Boylan held Auburn to just under 35 percent shooting while also holding a plus-21 edge in rebounds, many of which were offensive boards that led to easy Boylan points.
“Defense and rebounding. Then, more defense and more rebounding,” Boylan Head Coach Mike Winters said. “We executed our defensive game plan perfect. That is something we’ve really struggled with, putting together a game plan and sticking with it. But our kids did a phenomenal job with it.”
It was an inspired effort by Boylan, who had struggled in both areas for much of the season, despite having a big size advantage in most games they play.
Winters felt much of the struggles are because of a long football season. For four straight years now, Boylan has made long runs in football, with several athletes playing both sports and missing early practices and games during basketball season.
As the season wears on, the players are able to play themselves from football shape to basketball shape, and that is when the Titans’ seasons turn. Winters hopes it may be about that time of the year.
“It’s amazing how you start to see the legs come back and you start to see the shooting percentages improve and the defensive effort improve,” Winters said. “People forget that it’s just something we deal with every single year. I credit our kids for sticking with it. We’ve lost some games where we’ve just run out of gas.”
All this game does at the end of the day is keep Boylan alive early in the conference race. They have to turn around and travel to Belvidere Wednesday, Jan. 8, in a battle of second-place teams.
“It’s on to the next one,” Winters said. “In the scheme of things, it’s just one game, and we’ve got a long ways to go.”
From the Jan. 8-14, 2014, issue