Senior Adam Hart and his St. Francis boys basketball teammates entered the Glenbard West Holiday Classic on Monday afternoon coming off their highest-scoring game of the season.
Unfortunately for the Spartans, Northridge Prep coach Will Rey was among those who witnessed the double-overtime victory at Aurora Christian on Dec. 14.
The Knights' 2-3 zone defense proved to be a lot stingier in stifling the Spartans 45-26.
"We scored 77 our last game against a zone (to win in double overtime), but we didn't score 77 against that zone," St. Francis coach Bob Ward said. "They're long. They're quick. They cover for each other very well, a very well-coached team."
St. Francis (3-4) was 11 of 47 from the field and had only six free throws. The 6-foot-8 Hart collected a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds, but only three other St. Francis players scored.
"They played a lot more aggressive (zone than Aurora Christian) and were just trapping everywhere," said Hart, who made 6 of 9 shots. "It was pretty frustrating. We couldn't get into a good rhythm. We didn't come out prepared enough. We weren't ready for the game."
The Spartans have plenty of company. They are already the fourth team that Northridge Prep (7-2) had held to fewer than 30 points.
St. Francis had scored at least 46 points in its previous six games.
"(We play) a 2-3 zone, but we have a lot of matching principles and we really work on it. It's our staple," Rey said.
"That (Aurora Christian) game really sent me back home really thinking about how potent an offensive team they are. They have some guys that can score, that can shoot and they have a good inside-outside balance and they're very creative in what they do."
Northridge Prep zipped to an 8-2 lead and remained in charge by allowing just six points each of the first three quarters. The Spartans only trailed 22-12 at the half, but the Knights opened the third quarter with a 12-2 run.
Northridge Prep point guard Dylan Haig had back-to-back 3-pointers in the run and finished with 16 points and four 3s. Standout forward Steve Leazer had 7 of his 9 points in the third quarter after a scoreless first half.
"We played well defensively, but we also played well offensively, took care of the ball," Rey said.
In the fourth quarter Hart had all eight of the Spartans' points on two three-point plays from offensive rebounds and a dunk off a steal from the top of the key.
"(Hart) did a nice job but we're a work in progress. We take a couple of steps forward and tonight we took a couple back, but that's a credit to them, too," Ward said. "I'm was just disappointed in our approach offensively and defensively."
Hart played basketball at St. Francis as a freshman, transferred to St. Charles North and then transferred back to St. Francis as a junior. He was not eligible to play for the basketball team last season but was allowed to practice.
"It's been pretty good (returning to action), trying to get used to it a little bit, but I'm playing into it," Hart said. "(My goal is) whatever gets the job done, to win the game for my team, just help my team out."