Batavia's best wasn't quite enough.
Seniors Jesse Coffey and Elliott Vaughn both said Batavia played its best game of the season Saturday night. That gave them the ball and a chance to tie on the final possession of the game, but it wasn't enough for a victory in a 65-62 loss to Proviso East.
The Pirates (10-2) led from the midpoint of the second quarter on, yet never by more than 6 points. Coffey scored 19 points, Vaughn 14, Cole Gardner 12 and Mike Rueffer 10, each taking turns coming up with a key shot to always keep the Bulldogs within striking distance.
"As far as effort and execution I think so," Vaughn said of this being the best game in Batavia's 8-7 season.
"We didn't come away with a victory today but I still think we gave a tremendous effort. I think this game can be at the top of our performances."
If only Proviso East sixth man Michael Nicholas, who had been struggling entering the game, didn't pick Saturday to break out.
Nicholas scored a game-high 20 points. That included four 3-pointers in the first half to give the Pirates a 31-30 halftime lead, and a pair of key free throws with 17.5 seconds remaining after Batavia had trimmed Proviso East's lead to 63-62.
"We knew it was just a matter of confidence before he gets going again," Proviso East coach David Chatman said. "Tonight was one of the nights when we needed him and he came through in a big way."
After Nicholas' 2 free throws pushed Proviso's lead to 65-62, the Bulldogs called timeout with 13.5 seconds left. They tried to free Coffey coming off a screen on the baseline but the Pirates switched.
The ball wound up in Zach Strittmatter's hands and his 3 was off target. Vaughn grabbed the offensive rebound and tried to pass out for another 3 but the buzzer sounded before Strittmatter could get his shot off.
"We're not satisfied with the loss, we had them on the ropes at the end," Coffey said. "I thought we did a pretty good job, we just could't pull it out in the end."
Coffey nailed the first of his five 3-pointers to open Batavia's scoring and give the Bulldogs a lead they held the entire first quarter.
Rueffer started the second quarter with a 3-pointer to make it 16-9, the largest lead either team had. Gardner picked up his second foul on the next possession and spent the rest of the first half on the bench.
The Pirates built a 31-25 lead before a Coffey 3 and Strittmatter bucket brought the Bulldogs within 1 at halftime.
Proviso East turned to a full-court press in the third quarter. While it did create a couple easy baskets, Batavia turned it over only 7 times in the second half and 13 for the game, lower than the start of the season when turnovers were a huge problem.
"We learned from that early in the year, worked on that, and the past seven games we have calmed down and stopped panicking and got ourselves under control," Coffey said.
Vaughn drew a key charge in the final minute of the third quarter, the fourth foul on Trashaun Carroll (16 points, 6 rebounds).
After shooting 20 of 39 from the field through three quarters, the Bulldogs hit just 2 of 9 in the fourth. They gave themselves a chance by making 7 of 8 free throws, including a perfect 3-for-3 on front ends of 1-and-1s.
Down 63-57, Coffey's 3 and then two free throws brought Batavia within 63-62 before Nicholas answered with his own clutch free throws.
"We could never really get it going here," Chatman said. "It was great to be able to come in and win a game in this gym. This is a tough place to play."
Batavia returns to action Thursday at home against Geneva.
"We had our chances but couldn't quite put it away," Coffey said.