Spartans flame out in overtime
WESTVILLE — Brian Brooks sets up the St. Joseph-Ogden boys’ basketball schedule with one motive in mind.
“We want to see different styles to get us prepared for the postseason,” Brooks said.
His choices of nonconference opponents included ones with size, quickness, slowdown tendencies, zone defenses and man-to-man defenses.
“We talked as a staff coming into the postseason, there was really one style we had not seen,” Brooks said.
The Spartans saw it Wednesday night in a semifinal game of Westville’s Class 2A sectional tournament.
Reed-Custer, from Braidwood, has adapted its variation of the Grinnell College offense in which shots come rapidly and substitutions even more frequently.
“We run ’em in like a hockey team,” Reed-Custer coach Mark Porter said.
The fifth-ranked Spartans (26-4) learned how difficult the style is to prepare for on the run. Four different Comets drained first-quarter three-pointers, and the team’s ball-hawking, double-teaming pressure forced 26 turnovers as SJ-O was bounced from the postseason in overtime, 77-72.
“There are teams that have athletes and are as quick, but our system is very difficult to simulate,” Porter said. “There are so many possessions in our games.
“If we make a mistake, we say go on to the next play. They aren’t as magnified as if you’re in a 42-40 game.”
Brooks used 11 athletes in the first half, trying to keep fresh players on the court.
“We knew we couldn’t play just six or seven in that style,” he said. “We’d seen them four times and were very concerned.”
When the Spartans escaped or eluded the double teams, they wound up with good shots, hitting 49.2 percent of their shots (31 of 63).
“When we double-team, there’ll be someone open,” Porter said. “The (Nate) Michael kid found some people early, but we caused 26 turnovers against a very good team.”
Michael was the only Spartan to hit a three-pointer, connecting for four, but he fouled out with 51.7 seconds left in OT and Reed-Custer leading 75-72.
“He can create his own shot and is our go-to guy,” Brooks said.
SJ-O missed all three of its three-point shots in the extra session, getting points only from Brent Schluter. The game’s top scorer with 22 points, Schluter scored the tying points in regulation on a shot from in front of the free throw line with 56.5 seconds remaining.
The Comets held for the final shot, which was missed, and Hunter Hart grabbed the rebound as time expired.
Michael, Schluter and Hart are three of seven seniors on the SJ-O roster. Of the seven, six were four-year players. Hart was the lone three-year player.
“We’re losing seven great kids who’ve done a lot for our program,” Brooks said. “We’ve got some good kids coming, but it’s hard to see these seven walk out the door.”
They accounted for the best four-year record in school history with 99 wins.
“As coaches, we go game-by-game, but over four years they accumulated 99 wins, and that’s really special,” Brooks said.
SJ-O built a six-point first-half lead. Reed-Custer’s biggest lead was 51-44 with 3:31 left in the third period.
Porter’s team is in Year 2 of running this system. He said the improvement has been dramatic, even from last December.
“Early in the year, our defense was a sieve,” he said. “We were giving up those easy baskets. They’ve listened and learned and tonight they (Spartans) missed five or six layups because we had good run-throughs at them.”
Junior Tyler Harms came off the bench to hit 6 of 8 shots and score 12 points for the Spartans. Hart had 16 points and Michael finished with a double-double, grabbing 10 rebounds to go with his 18 points. Schluter had six boards to go with his game-high point total.
“They were not too concerned when we’d score because they knew they’d come down and get a shot,” Brooks said. “At halftime, we felt great being one up (37-36) because we never got the pace we wanted. We didn’t execute well in the halfcourt.
“We turned the ball over way too much, but they forced us into that.”
Overall, six of eight Comets who attempted three-pointers made at least one.