Hound Arie Williams all night and make his Elgin teammates beat you.
It was a simple plan executed to near perfection by St. Charles East in a 57-43 Upstate Eight River victory at Elgin's Chesbrough Field House Friday night.
"Arie doesn't come out of the game," said St. Charles East guard Kendall Stephens, Williams' close friend since grade school. "That's a lot of minutes if you look at it. You get tired. We just tried to keep throwing guys at him and make him work for his shots. It's hard to shoot when your legs are tired."
Though Williams scored a game-best 24 points, the game-long accumulation of St. Charles East double teams took its toll in the fourth quarter. After scoring 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting through three quarters, he missed his first 6 shots of the final period, including 5 attempts from 3-point range, and finished 1 of 7 from the field.
"It hasn't really changed since the first time I was double teamed against Geneva (on Dec. 8)," Williams said. "There's so much pressure there that at the end of games it kind of wears me out. It's just tough sometimes when the ball's not going your way and we keep turning the ball over. That didn't really help us out."
Williams committed 5 turnovers in the game against St. Charles East pressure, but his teammates accounted for 26 more. The Saints (7-2, 3-1) often failed to capitalize on Elgin's miscues for three quarters, however, which allowed the Maroons to draw within 37-34 early in the fourth quarter on a basket by senior center Eric Sedlack (10 points, 7 rebounds).
But Elgin (5-6, 1-4) treated the ball "like a hot potato," according to coach Mike Sitter. Ten fourth-quarter turnovers by Elgin -- highlighted by 3 steals from the Purdue-bound Stephens -- fed a decisive 13-1 Saints run over a span of 3:21.
Stephens had missed 10-of-13 shots entering the fourth quarter, but he drained a 3-pointer to ignite the surge. He added a conventional 3-point play, a putback and a dunk off a turnover to notch 10 of his team-high 19 points in the final eight minutes. He finished with 6 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 blocked shots.
"It was just a long night shooting, but it doesn't stop there," Stephens said. "I try to find other ways to help my team win -- do a little bit of rebounding, getting steals, being active."
St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods wasn't thrilled with his team's play when they trailed 14-13 after a quarter, but the Saints held Elgin to 6 points in the second period on 1-of-8 shooting to take a 26-20 halftime lead despite committing 9 turnovers in the half themselves.
"Early on especially, we could have done a better job of what we were trying to execute offensively, but I thought our defense was a lot better in the second half," Woods said.
Elgin shot 13 of 38 from the field (34 percent) but kept the game close thanks to a 39-25 rebounding edge. Senior guard Tanner Bednar (5-11) led the Maroons with 15 rebounds (5 offensive). However, the Saints won the turnover battled 31-13.
"Too many turnovers, too many turnovers, too many turnovers," Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. "We've seen that exact same defense 5 games in a row. Sometimes we've handled it well, sometimes we haven't. If they're going to make Arie give up the ball, he has to have confidence in his teammates that they're going to make those plays."