With one more week of January remaining, our local high school basketball teams will try to gain some much-needed momentum heading into the home stretch.
Here's a closer look at our teams as they await the final third of their seasons:
Marmion welcomes Stefanski back
Marmion climbed back above the .500 mark with Saturday's 66-51 home victory over Marian Central Catholic. The Cadets received a 15-point, 5-rebound, 5-block performance from 6-5 senior forward Pete Stefanski, who injured his ankle during last month's DeKalb holiday tournament and sat out a 2-week stretch of games.
"Pete has played three games now," said Cadets coach Ryan Paradise. "He played two weeks ago against Wheaton Academy and Belvidere but returning for back-to-back games probably wasn't ideal. He's working back into shape and getting his shot back."
In Stefanski's absence, a number of players received additional court time, including Alex Theisen, Colin Kavanaugh, Johnny Peters, and Jake Ruddy.
Theisen and Kavanaugh came off the bench to combine for 28 points, including 19 in the fourth quarter, against Marian Central Catholic.
"Colin was a force and not even in the point column," said Paradise. "He gave us some rebounding and toughness down low, and Alex helped us on the defensive end as well. Both of those guys have started before but they also know what to do coming off the bench."
Playing without Stefanski for a brief time may help the Cadets in the long run.
"You hate to lose anybody like that but it does give somebody else an opportunity," said the coach. "Some of those games at the DeKalb tournament, A.J. Bohr played great, Jeff Garofalo was tremendous, and Alex Theisen stepped up and carried a lot of the scoring. It gives guys opportunities to do different things, and then when you have Pete back, hopefully it gives us a deeper team at tournament time."
Bulldogs, Saints need offensive boost
After an 8-4 start, St. Charles East has slipped back to the .500 mark (8-8) following Saturday's 63-50 loss to Oswego. During their 4-game losing streak, the Saints have been held to 50 points or fewer in every contest.
The low point may have come during their 62-43 homecourt loss to Larkin on Jan. 14. After that game, the team remained in the meeting room for more than 45 minutes with the players putting their thoughts on the dry erase board during a "clear-the-air" session.
"Look up on the board there, that's none of us (coaches) talking," said Saints coach Patrick Woods. "That's all the kids.
"We're not putting things together and we're not executing the game plan. We're soft with no intensity."
It's the intensity part that rankles Woods most.
"Our defensive intensity isn't there like it was at the beginning of the year," said the coach. "I had a team that was 3-24 in my second year at Ridgewood. After a game, I felt pretty good because they played as hard as they possibly could and left everything they had out on the floor. Here, we've got loads of talent but we just don't know how to play hard. We've got to figure that out."
The Saints' next 3 games (vs. Batavia, Geneva and Streamwood) are against teams they beat the first time through the UEC River schedule.
Batavia (4-11) saw its losing streak reach 6 during Saturday's 48-38 loss to Geneva in the High School Hoops Showdown held at the Sears Centre.
Junior forward Zach Strittmatter enjoyed one of his best offensive outings of the season with a game-high 23 points but was the lone Bulldog in double figures.
The Bulldogs, who have topped the 50-point mark just once in their last 6 games, visit St. Charles East tonight.
Home sweet home for Vikings
You can excuse Geneva players if they feel a little out of sorts, beginning with tonight's game against Streamwood.
After playing 13 of their first 17 games on the road, the Vikings will be home for 3 consecutive games and 4 of their next 5.
Not that they've minded playing away from home.
Geneva (10-7) stayed in a first-place tie with Elgin (15-1) atop the UEC River standings by beating Batavia last Saturday in a "home" game at the Sears Centre. Brendan Leahy and Ryan Willing scored 12 points apiece for the Vikings, who will try to avenge their lone conference loss to St. Charles East (56-43) Saturday on Hall of Fame night.
Geneva, which handed Elgin its lone defeat on Dec. 2, will face the Maroons again on Feb. 21 -- naturally on the road.
Vikings coach Phil Ralston has been pleased with his team's shot selection throughout the season.
"This team has been one of my better ones in terms of taking good shots," said the coach. "That's one thing I haven't had to address too much this season."
Snow bad timing for Lady Bulldogs
Batavia's girls basketball team inched its way over the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 1 with last Thursday's 69-31 rout of visiting Elgin.
The Bulldogs, who had a 20-point outing from sophomore guard Liza Fruendt, also received a big boost from their reserves (outscored Elgin's bench players, 30-1).
"I'd like to think we run our practices where we give ourselves a chance to have everybody on our roster contribute," said Batavia first-year coach Kevin Jensen. "The way I was brought up, it wasn't about the plays you run as much as learning how to play basketball.
"We're just trying to teach the girls how to play ball so they can handle any situation."
Their hopes of extending a season-long winning streak to 4, however, were prolonged after last Friday's postponement against Larkin due to the snowstorm. Batavia will begin a 4-games-in-8-days stretch tonight at Streamwood.
"Hopefully we can build from this (win over Elgin) and get a little bit of a streak going and have some momentum toward the end of the season," said Jensen.
Geneva moves on without Santos
Geneva's girls basketball team suffered a huge blow when senior standout Ashley Santos suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Vikings' 65-55 win over previously unbeaten Lincoln-Way East on Jan. 14 in Villa Park.
But the Vikings (18-3) may enough depth to make another serious postseason run next month.
Geneva, which has won 3 straight regional and sectional titles, is now 2-0 without Santos after victories over West Chicago (60-51) and St. Charles East (58-45).
While the Marquette-bound Santos will be missed, the Vikings' strategy hasn't changed much. Senior guard Rachel Hinchman and junior Sami Pawlak combined for 30 points, while Geneva's pressure defense resulted in 18 steals.
Michaela Loebel, Kelly Gordon, Morgan Seberger, and Stevie Fanale will also be looked upon for added scoring in Santos' absence.
If their recent 26-point win over Streamwood is any indication, the Vikings will be just fine.
"We had 22 assists (against Streamwood)," said Geneva coach Sarah Meadows. "That's a huge stat. When we play together like that, good things happen for us."
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org