For Batavia's Eric Peterson and 10 other Batavia football players the transition this week from the gridiron to the hardwood couldn't have gone any smoother.
Fresh off winning the Class 7A state football title last weekend the group showed up for basketball practice on Monday ready to go. By Friday night's game at Elgin they had blended into a cohesive unit with the 9 other basketball players, who had already started the season with a 3-1 record.
The reinforced Bulldogs (4-1, 1-0) rolled to a 64-38 Upstate Eight River win to spoil the Maroons' debut on their new hardwood floor and remodeled Chesbrough Field House. Peterson, a starting wide receiver for the Bulldogs' football team, led the way with 18 points.
"These kids have gone through a lot these past few weeks," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. "But they have really handled it well. They are smart kids who can make the adjustment pretty quickly. The biggest thing we have worked on this week is their ballhandling skills and trying to get those as sharp as we can and get them up to speed. Fortunately, we have a lot of depth so were able to work a lot of guys into the lineup to keep everyone fresh. Plus this is a close group that already has some really good chemistry."
The Bulldogs fell behind 6-2 early on, but took over from there as they scored 13 unanswered points to pull ahead 15-6. Jayden Johnson (12 points) knocked down a pair of 3-pointers during the run. Batavia extended the lead to 32-16 by halftime.
"I thought we did a good job handling their defensive pressure," Nazos said. "We made some good decisions passing out of the double teams and getting the ball up the floor to get a good look at the other end."
Peterson had 12 first-half points and added 6 more in the second half as the Bulldogs continued to pull away.
"It's been fun to get started with something new after focusing on football for the last six months," Peterson said. "The toughest thing has just been getting used to the constant movement on the floor compared to football when you are stopping and starting a lot. I've been working on a lot of the mental part of the game this week remembering all the plays. But I think we did a good job today of coming together. We have a good chemistry."
Nazos is certainly glad to have Peterson back.
"He doesn't say much, but he leads by example," Nazos said. "He's a three-year varsity player. The kind of kid who always has a basketball in his hand and is working on his game. I thought he did a real good job of scoring in the rhythm of the game and that's what good basketball players do."
After making their first 3 shots of the game offense was hard to come by for the Maroons, who fell to 1-3, 0-1.
"Right now we have some good athletes, but we don't have many guys who have played a lot of basketball," Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. "So if we want to compete we have to bring a lot of energy and tonight we didn't have a lot of energy. Maybe we worked them too hard in practice this week because we just seemed to be a step behind on every play. So we will need to make some adjustments."
Sitter was hoping for a better outcome in the first game on the new court.
"Not exactly the way we wanted to break it in," Sitter said. "The place looks beautiful. A big improvement and a long time coming. Hopefully our play can start matching the beauty of the place soon."
Dan Toolsie had 14 points to lead the Maroons in scoring.