Hampshire heads to Dundee-Crown in key FVC battle
The upward trajectories of two Fox Valley Conference teams intersect when Hampshire visits Dundee-Crown Friday at 7 p.m.
Improved Hampshire (10-6, 5-2) has already doubled last year's 5-win total with 15 games to play.
"I think it's mostly chemistry," said Hampshire junior Collin Woods, who leads the Whip-Purs in scoring with 14.5 points per game. "We've all been playing with each other since elementary school feeder ball. When we go out on the court we know all of our strengths and weaknesses, so you all trust each other equally."
Dundee-Crown (13-3, 5-2) is fast approaching last year's total of 17 wins, which included a regional title.
"It's a good record, right there," said D-C senior Jack Michalski, who averages a team-high 10.6 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists, "but I think we shouldn't be happy with where we're at. We want to keep going farther and see where we can get."
The Chargers are coming of Wednesday's 39-32 victory over first-place Crystal Lake Central (11-5, 5-1). The win lifted D-C into a three-way tie for second place with Hampshire and Huntley (10-5, 5-2).
Hampshire had a chance to take sole possession of first place at Huntley on Wednesday, but the Red Raiders stifled the Whips in a 67-53 victory.
Hampshire had been averaging 66 points per game, so the Chargers remain wary.
"They're really good," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "They could light us up and they could score 80 the way they shoot it." Hampshire scored 81 points in a blowout win against Kaneland last Saturday after scoring 75 the previous night in a win over Cary-Grove (12-5, 4-3).
Woods gets plenty of offensive support from 6-foot-3 senior guard Justin Anderson (7.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists), 6-3 senior forward J.D. Shaw (7.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2 apg), 6-5 junior forward Jeremy Rosa, Jr. (7.2 ppg,) and senior guard Kyle Johnson (7 ppg, 4 rpg).
"Any one of six or seven guys can go get double figures on any night so I think guys stay more engaged," Hampshire coach Ben Whitehouse said. "They realize, hey, it might not be my night tonight, but I might have a great opportunity next time. What we're running is really spaced out and lets kids play."
The Chargers have won 5 straight despite the absence of Jordan Hairston. The senior guard is working his way back into the lineup after sitting out for internal reasons. Hairston is D-C's second-leading scorer at 9.7 points per game and one of the team's best defenders.
The senior trio of the 6-4 Michalski, 6-6 forward Brad Stec (9.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and 6-5 Josh Raby (8.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg) has been a steadying influence for a team that won the Sycamore Thanksgiving Tournament and the Marengo holiday tournament consolation title.
"We're just finding a way right now," Huber said. "We have guys that really compete. I mean, Michalski just competes. He's a competitor. Raby competes. And Brad Stec gets after it and competes."
D-C's coach went on to credit the contributions of senior guard Damarion Butler (4.1 ppg, 2.9 apg), along with reserves like Justin Prusko (6-6, 230 pounds), junior guard Douglas Miller, Jr., freshman Kennon Cook, junior guard Trayvon Hatcher, junior forward Ryan Hodor, senior forward Logan Frey and junior guard Kyle Huber.
"Brad and Josh and Jack have kind of lifted the guys up and put us on their back and they're bringing everybody along for the ride," Huber said. "If we can get these other guys to come with them, who knows what will happen."
Twinight doubleheader: Home fans get two games for the price of one on the first night of the Burlington Central Martin Luther King Invite next Wednesday.
The eight-team invitational was pared to seven just before the holidays due to a miscommunication with a previous participant.
Rather than short another participant a guaranteed game, Central filled the eighth team's spot and will play back to back against Elgin at 5:30 p.m. and McHenry at 7.
"It's not ideal," Central coach Brett Porto said, "but it's what's best for the other teams involved, and our kids would rather not miss a game either. It's the best scenario we could come up with."
The concept of playing consecutive games isn't that foreign. High school teams sometimes play two or three summer-league games in a row. Teams routinely play twice a day at other MLK tournaments around the state, but they usually get a break between games.
Porto said he may substitute more liberally than usual and timeouts might be used differently. Otherwise, the Rockets will make only slight adjustments in their overall approach.
"We'll get a full scouting report for both teams that we will digest the day before," Porto said. "Unlike other times, we'll spend half that practice working on Elgin and half on McHenry. Then all of our focus will be on the 5:30 game. When that's over, we'll go over the other scouting report, switch uniforms and be ready to go."
Two other first-day matchups take place in Central's new field house on Wednesday. Johnsburg faces Waubonsie Valley at 5:30 p.m. Hampshire takes on Lyons Township at 7 p.m.