Coming off a 19-point loss to Neuqua Valley Thursday night, Bartlett boys basketball coach Jim Wolfsmith put his team through an arduous practice session Friday in preparation for Saturday's game against East Aurora.
"We had a pretty hard practice yesterday," said Wolfsmith. "We usually don't do that but we wanted to talk about some of the things that we didn't do well."
The strategy paid dividends, as the Hawks (7-3, 4-1) overcame a sluggish start with a furious second-quarter rally and pulled away for a 63-46 Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division victory over the Tomcats (1-9, 0-5) in Bartlett.
"We got off to a slow start again but East Aurora ran their stuff, got good looks and hit their shots in that first quarter," said Wolfsmith. "It took us a while to get into our rhythm offensively and defensively."
Trailing 20-19 midway through the second quarter, the Hawks regained momentum with a 12-3 run during the final 3:38 of the opening half.
Jon Moss (12 points) ignited the surge with a 3-pointer, while Mitch Reid (10 points) added a layup in the final 20 seconds of the quarter to give Bartlett a 31-23 halftime advantage.
Bartlett outscored East Aurora 21-7 in the decisive second quarter.
"That's been our story," said Tomcats coach Wendell Jeffries. "That's our second bad second quarter in a row. In our last game (against Waubonsie Valley), we scored three points in the second quarter and didn't play very well.
"In this game, we had seven points and we gave up a lead," added Jeffries. "We need to learn how to sustain a good start."
Down by as many as 14 late in the third quarter, East Aurora went on a 7-0 run of its own, pulling within 7 at 43-36 on a pair of free throws by Fred Reynolds with 7:30 remaining.
But the Hawks stuck to their game plan and responded with 8 unanswered points, capped by Lance Whitaker's thunderous 2-hand dunk that extended the margin to 51-36.
"What we stressed yesterday was patience with our offense," Wolfsmith said of Friday's practice. "We've been hurrying through our stuff and forcing shots instead of running through our plays and looking at all of the options in the offense.
"We still had moments where we put up shots a little too quickly but we were more patient in our sets tonight."
Point guard Marcus Aluquin added 8 points, 7 assists, and 5 rebounds for the Hawks.
"We knew we had to bounce back from that tough loss," said Aluquin. "We thought we should have played better against Neuqua so we had to make a statement this game."
"Marcus sees the floor really well," said Wolfsmith. "He knows how to hit people when they're open. We're blessed with multiple guys who can play the point."
Tyree Willis paced East Aurora with 12 points and 6 rebounds, while DeJon Talbert added 11 points.
"When you come back within seven, someone's got to step up and hit a shot," said Jeffries. "We need someone to start making some big plays for us. People look at our record and we're 1-9 but we're close. We're close but yet so far away."