Elgin Academy rattles Westminster Christian
The Elgin Academy boys basketball team disguised its intent to confuse host Westminster Christian in the Class 1A regional playoff opener in Elgin Monday.
The Hilltoppers employed a 1-2-2 press for much of the game and forced 19 turnovers that fueled their offense in a 54-40 win, but few of those turnovers were forced in the backcourt. That was intentional.
"We wanted them to think we were pressuring them up court, but then we let them get deeper and deeper and we cut off their middle," said senior guard Christian Rodriguez, who led No. 10 Elgin Academy (12-17) with 15 points and 3 steals. "They are not really good at handling the ball, so we wanted to trap them and cut off their middle so they would turn it over."
No. 8 Westminster Christian (12-12) led 11-8 after a quarter but was outscored 19-11 in the second period and limited to 19 second-half points on 6-of-17 shooting.
"Once we got to half court, that's when we had problems," said Westminster Christian coach Damion Abrams, whose Warriors also lost to Elgin Academy by a point on their home floor on Dec. 1.
The playoff victory is the first for third-year Elgin Academy coach and athletic director Rick Williams, whose Hilltoppers advance to face No. 2 Harvest Christian Academy (15-8) on Thursday at 6 p.m.
"It means so much," Williams said of a postseason win. "You're always preaching to your guys about building and we've been building all year toward this game. For them to step up and beat a team you've already beaten, that's a hard thing to do. I just thought they had a ton of defensive pressure that was fun to watch. I'm excited for the school, the community, these guys, but we want to build on this and go after Harvest, too."
Elgin Academy won a Dec. 12 matchup against HCA 46-42.
"We still have more to go," said Elgin Academy junior Ryan Ulrichs, who scored 11 points. "We still have two more games to take care of and, hopefully, then move on to sectionals. That's our goal. We want to win this regional."
The Hilltoppers won the rebounding battle 33-26, led by 14 rebounds from Ulrichs, 8 of which were offensive rebounds. It helped that he didn't have to battle 6-4 Westminster leading scorer Chris King, who injured an ankle last week.
"I'm not going to make excuses because we had Chris on the bench," Abrams said. "We didn't come to play. Our big four just didn't come ready to play. We didn't meet their intensity. You can't win that way. No excuses."
It was a balanced effort for Elgin Academy offensively. The Hilltoppers got 10 points from senior guard Noah Townsend, whose back-to-back, fourth-quarter buckets gave his team a 10-point lead for the first time. Sophomore guard Cameron Agno finished with 12 points, 6 in the second quarter.
Freshman Justin Glanzer sank four 3-pointer to finish with 12 points for Westminster Christian, while sophomore Erick Haegeland, senior Brett Barker and junior Frankie Schlaffer contributed 8 points apiece.