All Elgin boys basketball coach Mike Sitter wants for Christmas is some more wins for his Maroons and "a video I can send to D-I schools," highlighting the play of all-purpose guard Arie Williams.
The 5-foot-9 senior continued to serve notice Friday night that this will be a dynamic year for him and his Maroon teammates in a 64-47 win over gutsy but outgunned Grayslake Central at the Bison Class at Buffalo Grove.
Williams' 27 points included all of Elgin's 14 in the first quarter.
"That was huge," said Sitter, as Grayslake Central had a chance to grab something of a commanding lead otherwise. Williams shot 5-of-5 in the quarter, including a trio of 3-pointers.
And then came the defensive pressure from Elgin (2-1) in the second quarter and 9 turnovers later, Grayslake Central would not come closer than 8 points again.
"I just wanted to be a playmaker for my team," said the soft-spoken Williams, who you would never mistake for a basketball star in his street clothes. When he was done scoring half his game-high point total in the first quarter, however, he made sure everyone else got involved.
"Giving them motivation, getting everybody touches," he said of his role.
The Maroons took advantage. Eric Sedlak, the 6-5 center, hit a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter. Isaiah Butler (15 points) picked up the load in the second quarter, hustling his way off the bench to 3 field goals, including one of his trio of 3-pointers.
"This year, we have to have (Sedlak) out there," Sitter said of the big guy's contribution. And as to Butler's talents, "You can see it in flashes," Sitter said of the 6-foot jumping-jack junior's abilities.
Despite forcing 24 turnovers out of the Rams (1-3) though, Elgin couldn't entirely shake the younger, less-experienced squad. Point guard Danny Reed's (15 points) hustle and perimeter shooting, scrappy defense from Jacob Vargo and a pleasantly surprising shooting performance off the bench from Kevin Orozco (10 points) enabled the Rams to go from 15 down to just 8 behind after three quarters.
But Williams asserted himself again in the final 8 minutes, knocking down another pair of 3-pointers and leading a ball hawking effort that enabled an 8-0 run by the Maroons for a 57-40 lead. Grayslake Central didn't have a field goal in the fourth quarter until Malcolm Reed's layup with 2:05 left.
Grayslake Central coach Brian Moe still felt the Bison Classic experience was well worth it.
"Absolutely," he said. "Monday night (tournament opener) compared to tonight, we're light years away from where we were," in terms of measurable improvement.
They're also light years from where Elgin is at, but don't tell that to the Maroons, who can still grab a piece of the tournament title if Buffalo Grove can upset Stevenson tonight.
"It wasn't the best effort," against Grayslake Central, Williams said, but, "everything was still there," in terms of scoring, rebounding and defense when needed.
But from Sitter's point of view, "We weren't the initiator tonight," in terms of forcing the action.
Williams' hot hand early though and overall better shot selection by everyone was an encouraging sign for him.