And Grayslake Central showed how Wednesday night in a 64-51 win over host Buffalo Grove on the third night of the Bison Classic.
Last year's varsity newcomers are this year's seasoned vets for the Rams (2-1), and they clamped down on the Bison (1-1) defensively, especially taking away their 3-point game while patiently attacking for high-percentage looks in a 20-for-36 shooting performance.
"After taking it on the chin (last year)," said Grayslake head coach Brian Moe, "it's nice to come out and compete. We have seven kids back from last year's team."
And they all figured prominently into forging the victory. After BG ran out ahead early on nice shooting from Andrew Apel (18 points), the Rams took control in the second quarter and never let up. They went from 4 down to 4 ahead in the second quarter as junior guard Charlie Anderson (16 points) and sophomore center Jack Beckman (6) gave a glimpse of what was to come.
"They definitely were ready for us," said first-year BG coach Keith Peterson. "They played very hard."
And very effectively.
The Rams maintained their lead through the third quarter and pulled away in the fourth thanks to their ability to force turnovers (19) and convert on them. Every time Apel or Kyle Calcagno (7 points) notched a basket, there was Anderson or Alex Lennartz or Sam Ruhlmann or Malcolm Reed to knock down free throws as the lead stretched from 4 after three quarters to the final margin.
The Rams always had a hand in the face of BG's shooters, whether it was starters Apel and Calcagno or Hans Haller and Conner Reid off the bench, who combined for 10 points.
"We played good team defense," said Anderson. "We all helped out."
"Charlie did a great job," said his coach, but the whole team "stepped up" in taking BG out of its comfort zone.
Everyone chipped in too -- especially Jacob Vargo and Matt Loeffl off the bench, along with Beckman, while the three-guard offense of Reed, Anderson and Joey Mudd controlled tempo and efficiently distributed the ball.
All the experience makes a big difference, according to Anderson, who said his team has, "a lot of potential."
So does Buffalo Grove, and the Bison will try to show as much on Friday against Christian Liberty and then Saturday against crosstown rival and Class 4A state runner-up Stevenson.
Peterson says a more deliberate approach to possessions will help.
"We have to look at our decisions with the ball," said Peterson. "We were just in a hurry."