To JaRon Hall, a Glenbard East victory on Wednesday at the 52nd annual Proviso West Holiday Tournament was just a matter of Glenbard East buckling down.
The Rams turned on the effort and came away with a 56-46 victory against Glenbrook North, advancing to play Maine South at 5:15 p.m. Thursday in the tournament's second round.
It took effort to overcome an early 8-2 deficit, using an 11-0 run to take the lead for good.
"We just pushed to get ahead," Hall said. "We knew that we were down, so we just had to do whatever we could to get ahead. It was all intensity and defense, really."
"It's kind of been the story of our last few games," added Rams coach Scott Miller. "It's not necessarily a slow start, but we miss a few jumpers. But we were able to climb back in it and take control. The end of the quarters were really big because we were able to knock some shots down."
It helped that the Rams (8-2) got Glenbrook North's 6-foot-8 Davidson-bound center Andrew McAuliffe in early foul trouble.
"McAuliffe got his second foul and the game just went down for us," Glenbrook North coach David Weber said. "We don't have a lot after him inside. We just have to teach him how to stay out of foul trouble. It's been a problem all year. Then when he gets back in it takes him a while to get back in rhythm, and our whole offense is predicated on getting the ball inside to him."
McAuliffe still wound up leading the Spartans (6-5) with 22 points and 8 rebounds.
"He was pretty good," Hall said. "He used his post moves pretty well, but all we had to do was double him and just make him kick it out to someone who could shoot, and luckily they missed it."
The Rams led 16-13 when Marvin Grant-Clark hit a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer, then they took a 30-21 lead into halftime after Mike Kjeldsen hit an off-balance 3-point buzzer-beater.
"That's what kicked up our intensity," Hall said.
It took extra effort again to respond when Glenbrook North cut the Rams' 14-point third-quarter lead down to 3 points with a 14-3 run that Hall stopped with a basket to end the period.
"These kids have been through the wars here so far," Miller said. "We've had some close ones, we've had some blowouts, that kind of thing. I was real proud of our guys, they didn't panic. And (the Spartans) are a good team and they knocked some shots down. We had better offensive possessions once they did cut it to 3 and we got some good looks and finished. I think that was the key there, patience on offense when they did make that little run at us."
"They're good," Weber said. "They hit their shots. They're very difficult to guard. They got a couple easy baskets. We don't rebound very well, and when you stop them they get a second-shot opportunity. That was a big part of this game."
Seniors Tahron Harvey scored 16 points to lead the Rams, and Hall added 14. Greg Ludwig, Grant-Clark and Kjeldsen each scored 8 points.
"They're very balanced," Weber said. "That was the hard part about guarding them is their balance. (Harvey) is good, he's able to back you in and kind of yo-yo on you. He's tough in the lane. Then (Kjeldsen) can shoot it, (Grant-Clark) is athletic around the rim, (Brandon Havenga) tipped one in. So they've got a lot of weapons. It's kind of a real balanced team."