New-look Bartlett (6-1, 0-1) hopes to parlay its early season momentum into a home win against South Elgin (3-2, 1-0) when the Upstate Eight Valley rivals clash Friday at 7:15 p.m.
The Hawks have been an early season revelation following the graduation of eight seniors. The program's only returning players were Justin Busch, a reserve point guard last season, and Ryan DeCanio, a shooter who joined the varsity as a sophomore in the final month of the 2012-13 campaign.
Despite such inexperience Bartlett won the Wheaton Academy Thanksgiving Tournament and subsequently defeated Elgin by 16 points. An initial loss last Saturday against league newcomer West Chicago, 66-58, was followed Tuesday by a 57-49 win against Oswego East.
DeCanio, named tournament MVP at Wheaton Academy, has developed into a 20-point per game scorer. Junior forward Jordon Anderson (6-1) is a leaper who also was named all-tournament at Wheaton Academy. Already this season, Busch has registered games of 8 and 10 assists.
"Justin Busch is doing a great job of running the team," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "He's a classic point guard looking to pass with the mindset of getting people involved. We share the ball this year. Since Day 1 this team has made that extra pass."
The Hawks expect to have their full complement of players available for the first time this season against South Elgin. Talented sophomore guard Robbie Jimenez (6-foot-3) was recently medically cleared following off-season knee surgery. He played his first game on Tuesday. Senior center Brian Tripahn, who rolled his ankle against Elgin on Dec. 5 and missed 2 games, is expected to return to the starting lineup, Wolfsmith said.
Defensively, Bartlett is holding opponents to 50.1 points per game and its opponents average 18 turnovers.
Gators run deep: Crystal Lake South stands 7-0, thanks in part to its deep lineup.
The Gators are unquestionably led by Austin Rogers, a 6-foot-2 senior guard averaging 21.3 points and 5.5 assists per game, but the talented lineup runs deep.
Second-year coach Matt LePage said the explanation behind CL South's hot start is "Depth. We're playing 10-11 guys and each night it's somebody different. One night it might be a couple of juniors, or a sophomore or a senior off the bench come in and score or create a lot of energy on the court. It's a good, unselfish team. Minutes are different ever game, but the bench has been a constant."
Crystal Lake South amassed many of its early season wins against Class 3A schools, but the competition level is about to rise with a trip to FVC Valley rival Dundee-Crown (2-4) on Tuesday and a matchup with Zion-Benton next Saturday.
"Obviously, those will be two big-time tests," LePage said. "We're off to a good start but we have a lot of great games ahead."
Rocket testing ahead: The Burlington Central boys basketball team's 6-1 record includes wins at Sycamore, Hampshire and Elgin, but the Rockets are keeping their early season success in perspective.
"We've played well in this stretch out of the gate against some really good opponents, but it's just got to be a starting point," Central coach Brett Porto said. "If we don't do anything from here with two, two and a half months left in the season, we'll be looking back and kicking ourselves. Hopefully, we can keep building and getting better."
The Rockets are a deep team with an 11-man rotation when at full strength. Porto makes wholesale personnel changes every few minutes to keep his players fresh. In fact, during Tuesday's 74-68 victory, the Elgin public address announcer took to calling Central's mass substitutions "line changes."
Third-year guard Reed Hunnicutt (12.9 ppg) has become the team's leading scorer, but the offensive load is shared by many, including 6-foot-9 senior Duncan Ozburn (9.3 ppg, 29 blocks), senior guard Jacob Schutta (8.3 ppg), senior point guard Brett Rau (7.8), senior 3-point specialist Sean Fitzgerald (7.4 ppg, 31 3-pointers) and senior guard James Raney (5.3).
In a testament to the team's depth, the Rockets have not faltered since losing Rau to a hip flexor injury in the first minute of Friday's game against Rock Falls. Sophomore Luke McCurdy -- the last in a long line of basketball-playing brothers to come through Central -- has filled the void seamlessly. McCurdy scored a game-high 20 points in a 64-51 win at rival Hampshire on Saturday and contributed 12 points in the win at Elgin.
"With Brett out it's nice to see Luke come in and do such a nice job at point guard," Hunnicutt said. "We haven't really missed a beat at all."
"The kids have done a nice job of stepping up without our main ballhandler and distributor," Porto said of Rau, who leads the team with 3.8 assists per game. "It's been nice to watch."
Porto said he hopes to have Rau back in the lineup Monday for the Big Northern East opener at Rockford Christian or, possibly, a week from Saturday when the Rockets host Genoa-Kingston.
Challenges await undefeated Green Wave: Off to a 9-0 start, the St. Edward boys basketball team realizes the competition is about to stiffen, beginning with Friday's rematch in Lombard against Montini.
St. Edward knocked off the Broncos 59-52 last Tuesday at Aurora Christian's post-Thanksgiving tournament.
"It's always hard to beat a team multiple times, especially after we just beat them last week," St. Edward coach P.J. White said. "We've been playing against teams of our like size and ability at the Westminster Christian Tournament and at Aurora Christian. Our schedule will continue to get better as we go on and we get into our division against teams like Marian Central, IC and Chicago Christian. It's been a long time since St. Edward has been able to beat a bunch of those schools."
The Green Wave face a particularly challenging stretch in mid-January with 4 tough games in eight days. First, they host rival IC Catholic Prep on Friday, Jan. 17 and travel to Bloomington the next day for the annual Central Catholic Shootout. St. Edward has played afternoon matchups in previous trips to Bloomington, but their 9-0 start has commanded a prime-time performance against the host Saints at 7:30 p.m.
On Tuesday, Jan. 18, the Wave make a return trip to Guerin, a team they knocked off 66-53 in Elgin on Tuesday. The tough span concludes on Saturday, Jan. 24 with a home game against Kaneland (2-2), coached by St. Edward graduate Brian Johnson.
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