Offense isn't usually an issue for the Bartlett boys basketball team, which entered Friday's rivalry game at South Elgin averaging 58.6 points per game.
But the hallmark of coach Chaz Taft's fifth-year program at South Elgin is in-your-face, physical defense. The Storm's defensive reputation only grew with a 44-36 victory over the Hawks in the Upstate Eight Conference's Valley Division.
South Elgin didn't do anything special, said Taft, who has been known to switch defenses more often than teenagers update their Facebook status.
"We kept it simple with the game plan. There was nothing outlandish," he said. "We just played good, hard man-to-man defense."
Taft's bunch play it better than most, in Bartlett's opinion.
"South Elgin plays a very physical brand of defense," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "Not a lot of teams do it and they're very good at it."
Defensive wrinkles included 6-foot-4 center Matt Hattendorf taking a first-quarter charge against Bartlett leading scorer Lance Williams, who found himself sidelined for most of the first half in early foul trouble.
Elsewhere, South Elgin guards kept hands in the faces of Bartlett starting guards Matt Chaltin and David Greiter, who combined to shoot 0-for-5 from 3-point range and finished with 4 points, all by Greiter.
With Whitaker on the bench in foul trouble, Bartlett struggled offensively, scoring only 18 points in the first half on 4-of-18 shooting (1 of 9 from 3-point range). The Hawks managed only 4 field goals in the first half, 3 of them by Femi Oyewole (9 points).
Meanwhile, South Elgin (8-6, 2-2) sank three 3-pointers en route to a 16-point first quarter before senior guard Michael Duarte took over in the second. He scored on consecutive possessions by driving the lane, first to the right side, then the left.
"We set up a little play for me to come off a ball screen at the top of the key," said Duarte, who led the Storm with 13 points. "Coach told me to drive and create and that's what happened."
With Bartlett's defense concentrating on limiting touches for South Elgin leading scorer Sammy Sutter, who was held to 6 points, sophomore point guard Jake Maestranzi picked up the slack. He sank a 3-pointer in each quarter, including a shot in the fourth that staked the Storm to a 40-29 lead with 5:08 left in the game.
"I was open and I knocked down my shots," Maestranzi said matter-of-factly of sinking 4-of-5 attempts from beyond the 3-point line.
Whitaker came alive in the second half, when he made up for lost time by hitting 7-of-11 shots for all 15 of his points. However, the Hawks never pulled closer than within 5 points of the lead in the third quarter. Down by 8 points with 40 seconds left, they opted not to foul.
The defeat in front of a big, enthusiastic crowd was the fourth straight for the Hawks. Wolfsmith said no one is panicking despite falling to 8-9 overall and 0-4 in the UEC Valley.
"I expected we'd be up and down because of our inexperience on the varsity level," Wolfsmith said. "This is a tough conference and playing on the road in our conference is brutal.
"Our goal is to be ready for the postseason. The hope is that we learn from playing in this type of atmosphere. At some point, the learning had to kick in."