Fresh from winning its last 4 games in the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs, South Elgin headed into the 2014 portion of its basketball schedule looking to keep that momentum going.
The Storm (9-6) did just that, outscoring Batavia (5-9) 40-24 over the middle 2 quarters on the way to a 69-58 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory Saturday night in Batavia.
Relying on full-court pressure, the Storm forced 15 of the Bulldogs' 21 turnovers during the second and third quarters and turned a 14-14 deadlock into a 54-38 lead heading into the final 8 minutes.
"We put more man pressure on the ball today to try and take advantage of our quickness," said senior guard Matt McClure, one of 3 Storm players to reach double figures with 13 points. "We tried to get up and pressure their guards. We play best when we're playing fast."
The Storm went on a 16-3 run during the first half of the second quarter, benefiting from back-to-back 3-point plays by Darius Wells (13 points) and Logan Atkins as well as a 3-pointer from point guard Justin Howard (9 points) -- 1 of 4 sophomores in South Elgin's starting lineup.
"I thought Justin Howard was incredible pressuring the ball up the floor," said Storm first-year head coach Matt Petersen. "He has been bringing great intensity and energy."
Part of Peterson's pregame plan was to speed up the pace of the game.
"That was one thing we talked about in preparation for the game," said Petersen. "I thought our athleticism was good enough to disrupt what they were trying to do.
"They're a very disciplined basketball team but in that discipline if you can get them out of what they're comfortable doing we could force the issue there."
Led by juniors Tyler Lovestrand and Danny Pieczynski, the Bulldogs scored the first 8 points of the fourth quarter and trimmed the deficit to 56-49 on Pieczynski's 3-pointer with 4:48 remaining.
Batavia fought to within 7 on 2 other occasions -- when Micah Coffey made 2 free throws to make it 60-53 with 3 minutes left and when Lovestrand's layup cut the deficit to 62-55 with 1:53 remaining.
That was as close as the Bulldogs would get.
"You can't give teams extra possessions whether it's off a dribble-pass or an offensive rebound," said Batavia coach Jim Nazos, whose team went 3-1 at the Elgin Holiday Tournament. "They had far too many (possessions) for the game for us to be in striking distance. I don't think it's anybody individually -- it's a team effort.
"Their first four points of the game were offensive putbacks," added Nazos. "That can't happen. You can't give teams extra possessions or else it's a hard game to win."
Micah Coffey and Pieczynski paced the Bulldogs with 13 points apiece while Tucker Knox added 12 points and 9 rebounds before fouling out with 2:29 left.
"I still believe we're a team that is going to do well," said Nazos. "We've got to take care of some things and come back and play Streamwood on Friday."
Sophomore guard Matt Smith led the Storm with 15 points while 6-8 sophomore center Tyler Hankins added 7 points, 8 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots.
"This was a big win for us," said Petersen, whose team hosts Geneva Tuesday. "They're (the Bulldogs) a team that is playing better than they were at the beginning of the year. Now we've got to get ready for a great team because Geneva is big and strong."