The Elgin boys basketball team has played a handful of games and is now starting to show signs of getting healthy.
Isaiah Butler, working his way back into the lineup from an ankle injury, poured in 23 points and Desmond Sanders added 16 for the Maroons but it took the right bounce from Ryan Sitter on a free throw that gave Elgin a 64-63 victory over Carmel Catholic in the Hoops Classic held at Ridgewood High School in Norridge on Sunday afternoon.
Sitter made 2 free throws with four seconds left in the game that put the Maroons (2-4) up by a 4-point margin. However, on the second one, the ball took three bounces off the back of the rim and finally fell through.
"All the coaches make a big deal about free throws," said Sitter, who was 6-for-6 from the line in the fourth quarter and scored 9 points. "We will win or lose five games based on whether we make or miss free throws.
"As soon as I let it go, I knew if I had missed the clock would be running. I was pretty confident with the way I let it go, that it would give me a good bounce. I was a little nervous, but I have been in this position before, against Buffalo Grove and in overtime against Larkin to win a game."
Carmel Catholic (6-1) came right down the court and Billy Kirby (8 points) dropped in a 3-pointer as the horn went off for the one-point difference. Kirby also sank a trey with 17 seconds remaining that cut the Elgin lead to 2 points.
"When I got the ball, I was looking for a quick score," Kirby said. "We had a chance to stay in the game. I was holding my breath hoping the free throw would bounce out and we would get a chance to go into overtime."
Butler was a big part of the fourth quarter for Elgin. He scored 6 points that helped put the Maroons up by five with 37 seconds left.
"I've had an ankle sprain and it kept me out for the first four games," said Butler, who played against Bartlett Thursday. "It felt good to be out there. I just got a little hyped because when the team plays as a unit, we play real good."
Elgin, in its previous games, hadn't put together four good quarters. The Maroons finally showed what they can do when all the pieces are on the court.
"It's nice to get the win," Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. "We haven't been playing very well to start the year and we've been short-handed. It's been nice to get back to full-strength and get a quality win. We played well from the tip to the buzzer and played a complete game."
The Corsairs, who are off to the best start in school history, fell behind early in the opening quarter and recovered for a 15-14 lead at the quarter's end.
Then, they went on a 10-2 run as Chris Duff (13 points) hit a short jump shot that made the score 25-16 in favor of the Corsairs.
Elgin chipped back into the game and trailed 30-28 at the break.
The game went back and forth with the lead exchanging hands in the third quarter. Butler made a layup as the third quarter ended that gave the Maroons a 44-42 lead.
In the final quarter, Elgin held court and wouldn't give up the lead, but Carmel kept making runs trying to take over the lead and the game.
"You can see right off the bat that (Elgin) came out ready to play and they were aggressive," Carmel Catholic coach Tim Bowen said. "For some reason (our) team will get a 10 or 12 point lead and then they will relax. It's been our focus for two to three games now to stop doing that. It's an opportunity to learn that you can't take breaks and there's 32 minutes of basketball.
"We've had a couple games that we've come back but not in the fourth quarter. We just needed to knock down a few more shots."
John George led the Corsairs with a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds, Nick Poyser added 12 points and Michael Barr chipped in with 11.