The rematch between the South Elgin boys basketball team and Waubonsie Valley on Thursday night in Aurora went down to the wire just like in early December when the Storm prevailed by two points.
But the difference in this game and why Waubonsie won 70-66 Thursday was their improved play in the paint.
"In the first game I didn't think we pounded enough inside," said Warriors coach Chaz Taft. "I just think we outworked them. We got more 50-50 balls. With our basketball IQ and toughness. I think there's a big difference in us between the fifth game (the first contest against South Elgin) and the 18th."
South Elgin (10-7, 3-3 Upstate Eight Valley) came into the game shooting 36 percent from 3-point range and hit 11 3-pointers to Waubonsie's 2. Storm coach Matt Petersen couldn't be happier with his team's 3-point shooting ability. But unlike Waubonsie (11-7, 4-3), he said his team didn't play well in the paint until it was too late.
"I told the team after the game that we needed a game like this against a team that packs the paint and closes up the floor," he said. "When we attacked and got to the rim, we made plays. We just didn't do it enough."
The Storm led 16-12 after the first eight minutes and then Waubonsie senior Jay DeHaan took off in the second quarter. He finished with a game-high 27 points with 16 coming in the second period, including 5 of 5 in free throws.
"The shots were falling tonight. The team looks to me to knock them down," DeHaan said.
Waubonsie led 36-31 at halftime.
"We changed the game plan a little bit from the first time. We executed better down the stretch," DeHaan said. "We lowered their number of offensive rebounds to limit their second chances and we made them work for baskets."
South Elgin's 3-point ability was on full display in the second half. The team hit for 7 in the final 16 minutes.
Justin Howard and Darius Wells each hit for two in the third quarter and Wells sank two more in the final quarter. The Storm's shooting helped it tie the game at 48 at the end of the third. Wells led his team with 16 points and Howard had 12. Matt McClure had 11 and Jake Amrhein had 10.
Throughout the game both teams built up leads in the high single digits. But they didn't last long and that's why the game went down to the wire. DeHaan made good on a three-point play to put the Warriors up 64-57 with 2:38 left in the game.
About two minutes later McClure also converted on a three-point play and put the Storm to within 66-64. The Warriors, though, helped their cause going 4 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to stay in control.