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Elgin couldn't have asked for a better start to its game against Dundee-Crown on Thursday at its own holiday tournament inside Chesbrough Field House.
Hoping to come out with the right intensity, the Maroons implemented a zone press defense, helping set the tone from the get-go during a 56-37 win. The Maroons advance to the semifinals for the third year in a row where they will face Harlan at 6:45 p.m. Friday. The Chargers will face Rockford East in a 12:15 p.m. consolation game.
Elgin forced 9 first-half turnovers, leading to several transition baskets, and held the Chargers to just 4-of-26 shooting (15 percent) in the half.
"We've been working on playing full court," said Elgin coach Mike Sitter. "We have athletic players and we want to use that athleticism and let them roam around and get their hands on some passes. We really haven't used (the zone press) a lot this year but they learned as the game went on."
Midway through the first quarter, D-C (3-7) looked like it may be able to hang with Elgin (5-6) after senior Cordero Parson nailed a 3-pointer to make it a 7-6 Maroons lead. However, Elgin closed on a 9-0 run to head into the second quarter up 16-6. After two more Elgin baskets, the Chargers eventually cut the lead back to 10, but the Maroons again finished the frame strong, closing on a 10-1 run to take a 30-11 lead into the break.
"I thought we got some good looks, we just didn't make any and sometimes that's contagious," said D-C coach Lance Huber. "The first half we were 0-for-10 from the arc and we missed layups. I don't know how you can come out here with a chance to play in the semifinals and come out flat."
Elgin kept up the pressure in the third quarter, holding D-C to just 2 points in the frame on six shots for a 40-13 lead heading into the fourth.
"The plan was to come out and execute our defense," said Elgin senior Desmond Sanders, who finished with 10 points and 5 rebounds. "Our defense, being aggressive and getting turnovers has worked for us ever since we put in the zone with the trap."
D-C switched to a press defense in the fourth, helping to create 7 turnovers and a 24-point quarter.
"We tried to make a run and things got a little better when we were pressing," Huber said. "Maybe that's a good sign and we can build on that."
Isaiah Butler and Lavion Baldwin each scored a team-high 12 points for Elgin. Kiwaun Seals scored a game-high 18 points for D-C, while Parson added 11 points and 5 rebounds.