Elgin senior guard Arie Williams has turned a lot of opposing basketball coaches into believers during the course of his high school career.
Not that St. Charles East head coach Patrick Woods didn't believe in Williams' skills beforehand, but he came away from Friday night's Upstate Eight Conference River Division contest even more impressed with the Maroons' 5-foot-9 dynamo.
Williams poured in a game-high 35 points on 12 of 14 shooting from the field -- including 6 of 7 from beyond the 3-point arc -- to lift the Maroons (12-13, 3-9) to a 70-67 victory over the Saints (15-9, 8-4) on Senior Night in St. Charles.
"Arie Williams is a heck of a player," said Woods. "We tried a lot of different things and credit him -- he killed us.
"Right now, if I was doing MVP of our conference, he'd get my vote," added Woods. "He carried them." Williams came out smoking from the outset, draining his first three 3-point shots on the way to a 16-point opening quarter.
He added 6 more points before halftime, connected on all 3 of his third-quarter field-goal attempts and buried his sixth long-range shot in the fourth quarter to give the Maroons a 58-54 lead with 6:25 remaining.
Elgin also received a big lift from junior reserve guard Isaiah Butler, who tallied 17 points. Meanwhile, senior center Eric Sedlack and sophomore guard Malik Parham-Dunner combined for 11 fourth-quarter points. A layup by Parham-Dunner with 2:12 left snapped a 65-65 deadlock and put the Maroons on top to stay.
"There have been plenty of games where Arie's scored like that and nobody else has scored," said Elgin coach Mike Sitter. "Isaiah Butler has stepped up and given us a second scoring option. I was proud of the way we moved without the ball. We got some high percentage shots for our role players, Malik Parham-Dunner, Eric Sedlack, and Moses Gibson.
"Arie's going to score every game," added Sitter. "It's just a matter of who is going to score with him."
As prolific he was on offense, Williams' defense didn't go unnoticed.
While holding Saints junior guard Dom Adduci (4 points) scoreless for 3 quarters, Williams also guarded speedy sophomore Cole Gentry (16 points) at times before switching to defend sophomore Jake Asquini (21 points) over the final 2 minutes.
Asquini, who made 7 of 10 3-point attempts, helped keep the Saints close with 4 fourth-quarter 3-pointers.
"But he can't guard five guys," joked Sitter. "He made that switch himself. He said, 'I'll take 33 (Asquini) because he's torching everybody else.'
"He stepped up and wanted to guard their best shooter at the time late in the game and he did a nice job taking away what they wanted to do late," added Sitter. "He can guard anybody."
About the only place on the court where Williams struggled was at the free-throw line, where he split 10 tries.
His 2 misses with 7.4 seconds remaining left the Saints with one last gasp but Adduci misfired on a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
"I need to start making free throws," said Williams. "I feel like I've been inconsistent all year. I've got to start knocking them down because my team depends on me."
Ten of the Maroons' 25 games have been decided by 5 or less points -- they're now 5-5 in those games.
"It was nice to be on the other end of that and to finish off a game where we had a lead quite a bit of the time," said Sitter.
Ben Skoog added 7 points and 11 rebounds for the Saints.
"I'm disappointed for our seniors," said Woods. "But in the big scheme of things, it's a game we can learn from and hope it helps us in the playoffs."