Disciplined Wheaton Warrenville South holds off Batavia
There's no statistical category in basketball for "screens, set," but they're an often overlooked part of the game of basketball. Well executed, they can be killers.
Wheaton Warrenville South lives off the screen. It drives their offense. And against Batavia Friday night in Batavia, the 15th-ranked Tigers' screen game was definitely on.
The primary beneficiary of those screens was Jeff Kratz, a 6-1 senior shooting guard, with the emphasis on shooting. Kratz popped off those screens all night long and poured in a game-high 26 points on 8-of-14 shooting to lead Wheaton Warrenville South to a 45-36 victory over the Bulldogs. The win improved the Tigers to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the DuKane Conference.
"I knew I felt really good and really comfortable as soon as the first shot went in," said Kratz. "It's always nice to get that first one to go down. After that, the guys were just setting really good screens and making good passes all night long."
The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for No. 11 Batavia, which slips to 6-2 overall and 2-1 in the league. Jayden Johnson, the Bulldogs' 6-6 shooting guard, managed a trio of treys en route to a team-high 11 points.
In a battle between two disciplined teams focused on defense, fundamentals and execution, the game unfolded as one might expect: low scoring, intense, and close beginning to end. The biggest lead of the night other than the final score was eight points, and it was as close as five with 36.7 seconds left in the game.
"They had really timely execution tonight," assessed Bulldogs coach Jim Nazos. "That was basically a two-possession game throughout the entire fourth quarter, and every time we got close or in a position to make something happen, they made a play and held us off. And losing the turnover count 13-5 didn't help, either."
And neither did Wheaton Warrenville South's prowess at the free-throw line, where they were 13 of 15 on the evening, including a perfect 10-for-10 in the fourth quarter, when they mattered.
After Kratz started the game off with a reverse layup down the baseline and Johnson responded with a 3, the Tigers' Chase Keating converted back-to-back layups to make it 6-3. Batavia's Marko Yager (6 points) scored in the paint, but Kratz responded with a trey off a turnover and a pair of free throws to lift Wheaton Warrenville South to an 11-6 lead after a quarter.
The Bulldogs held their guests scoreless for the first half of the second stanza, and after a free throw by Quin Urwiler, a 3-pointer from the right corner by Jack Carlson (7 points) and a Devin Cheaney putback of a Johnson miss, Batavia had regained the lead 12-11. Cue Kratz, who sandwiched treys from the right and left wings around a beautiful spinning pullup jumper by the Bulldogs' Zack Weber to send the teams to their locker rooms with Wheaton Warrenville South on top 19-17.
Kratz lit it up again in the third, scoring six straight Tiger points to help them build a 27-19 lead. But Batavia stormed back, pulling within 27-26 on a 3-pointer by Johnson with just under two minutes left in the period.
The Tigers' Dorian Howard scored in the low post to make it 29-26, and Johnson converted a layup to restore the single-point spread. But Kratz -- who else? -- dropped in a 3-pointer with four seconds to go in the period and put Wheaton Warrenville South up 32-28 after 24 minutes.
After Matt Scherrman hit a 3 to put the Tigers up 35-30, Wheaton Warrenville South switched gears to a very deliberate offensive set. It wasn't a stall, it was a motion offense looking for opportunities, but the Tigers' last 10 points of the night came from the charity stripe.
"I think we're starting to figure out who we are," said Tigers coach Michael Healy. "And tonight, our guys played their tails off. We made our free throws and Jeff played well. That was his best game yet."