If Rounds 1 and 2 between St. Edward and Immaculate Conception were entertaining, Round 3 will make you drool for Round 4 on February 15. Just ask Knights' coach T.J. Tyrrell, after his team secured a 64-58 Suburban Christian Blue boys basketball win in Elgin Friday night.
"Going through this game, I was looking and we have to do this again with them," said Tyrell, whose team ran its win streak to 8 and 11 of 12. "Our kids really stepped up the intensity. I thought our intensity was lackluster in the first quarter. Guys really got after it, really started to feel it. I thought we looked pretty good up until the last five minutes. I thought we handled ourselves pretty well."
IC was slow out of the gate after St. Edward's Adrian Ponce, nailed his first five shots to help St. Edward grab a 8-point lead in the first quarter. Both teams traded baskets but without a knockout blow and Ponce and Davontae Elam again in foul trouble for the second-straight meeting, the Knights (14-3, 4-1) drove to the lane and put together a quick 6-1 run in which freshman Rhaushaun Eptig accounted for 5 points, including a key-offensive rebound putback that cut St. Edward's lead to 2 at the half.
Then IC got St. Edward (13-4, 3-2) in the second half with the help of Ross Fleming and Demetrius Carr.
The Knights took the momentum at the end of the first half and used it during a 20-8 run in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter, highlighted by Fleming's back-to-back steals, one of which he converted for a layup and the latter being a 3-point play for Carr, who with his game-high 20 points, led a furious third quarter where IC outscored the Green Wave 24-13. Carr's basket made it 49-39 IC and the Green Wave were dizzy.
"We always try to get confidence to come out and play defense," said Fleming, who had 8 points and played in only his second game after a groin injury and a hip flexor caused him to miss time since the teams' first meeting. "And that's what coach was telling us to do, come out and play defense."
Danny Favela's steal and pass to Elam (8 points), who was fouled on a layup, helped St. Edward cut the lead to 5 with 1:41 left in the third. But that's as close as it got because defense became a major key for the Knights, with good man pressure that accounted for 9 steals. After a 13 for 19 shooting barrage in the first half for St. Edward, the Wave were just 5 of 13 in the third and committed 4 turnovers. It also didn't help that Carr went off, scoring 10 in the third and that Ponce was called for a technical after hanging on the rim trying to put back a missed shot.
"We knew every time coming into St. Ed's it's going to be a tough game," Carr said. "We started off a little shaky with the turnovers and some bad shots but went into halftime down 2, had a talk at halftime just motivating each other, to come back out saying we could win this game. We just have to prove it to ourselves.
"We just had to attack, our game plan was to go to the basket, just attack, attack, we got Ponce and Davontae out of the game early and that made a more lanes to drive. "
St. Edward had won 6 of its last 7, with its only loss in that run coming to IC on Dec. 29, but it just didn't have anything to combat IC's shot as the Knights went 14 for 28 to finish at a 47 percent clip from the field.
"We threw a little barrage at them, they withstood it and they come back and threw one at us and ultimately they were able to throw a few more of them than we were," Green Wave coach P.J. White said. "Their man-to-man pressure pretty much took us out of our offense, and we didn't run an offense and still only lost by 6. So if we could get into our offensive sets, then what could actually happen?"
Ponce finished with 14 points and 4 rebounds and John Butzow added 12 points for St. Edward.