Schuemer, Willowbrook hang on to lead
Jumping out to a big first-half lead can be a double-edged sword for a high school basketball team.
Sure, it's nice to have that cushion, but in Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins' words, it's "playing with fire."
And the Warriors could have been burned in a West Suburban Gold tilt Tuesday with Morton had it not been for junior forward Ethan Schuemer.
Willowbrook jumped out to leads of 16-2 and 28-7 in the first half, then had to hold off two furious second-half comebacks by the Mustangs to come away with a 64-52 victory and improve to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in conference.
Through it all, Schuemer was rock-solid, scoring a game-high 28 points, including a perfect 12 for 12 from the free-throw line, while grabbing 14 rebounds, 5 in the offensive end.
It was all in a day's work for the earnest, 6-foot-6 Schuemer, who's getting Division I collegiate looks from the likes of Belmont and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. But he agreed with his coach that frittering away a big lead isn't exactly a desirable situation.
"Obviously, we had a pretty steady lead and I think our heads were kgetting a little too high, and we had to slow things down and keep a steady pace," said Schuemer, who's averaging 19.5 points and 9.3 rebounds a game. "Even with that big lead, we have to have the mentality to keep the lead going instead of just trying to finish it out."
Schuemer scored 13 in the first half, igniting runs of 10-0 in the first quarter and 10-2 in the second to take a 30-12 halftime lead. Looking good, right?
Wrong. Employing a press, the plucky Mustangs revolted with a 10-0 run of their own midway through the third quarter to cut the Willowbrook lead to 36-25 with 3:58 left. Schuemer righted the Warriors' ship with a three-point play with 2:13 left, triggered by a layup off of an offensive rebound.
Schuemer returned the Willowbrook lead to 52-32 with a pair of layups to start the fourth quarter, but then Morton erupted again, this time with an 11-0 run, punctuated by a dunk by senior guard Semaj Jackson off a steal with 4:40 left.
But Schuemer scored 6 of his team's 12 points to end the contest, including going 4 for 4 from the free-throw line. The best Morton could do in the last minute was a pair of buckets from junior guard Vinny Belcaster, who led the Mustangs with 14 points.
"He's definitely our rock," Perkins said of Schuemer. "When things get difficult, that's who we go to. He was our leading scorer and rebounder last year as a sophomore. He's a special player for us. He did what we thought he was going to do. He kind of leads us, and the guards do a good job of finding him."