South Elgin gives itself a shot at UEC title
When South Elgin senior guard Trace Ashby became wide open in the left corner of the basketball court Monday, he didn't worry about his past shooting, only the Storm's hopeful shot at program history.
Ashby's biggest 3-pointer this season with 2:31 left gave the Storm the lead for good in their key 51-48 Upstate Eight Conference victory at Glenbard South.
"That was nice. I actually wasn't even feeling my shot today at all," said Ashby, who put the Storm ahead 44-43. "But I knew it was a big-time moment. I knew I needed to make that so it went in, luckily."
With five starting seniors, the Storm (22-7, 15-2) can capture a share of the first conference title in program history with a victory Wednesday at current leader West Aurora (23-4, 16-1) in the UEC finale. The Blackhawks won their Dec. 12 meeting 65-61.
"We've been wanting it all year. We really put that on our mind (Monday). That really drove us to get this win," Ashby said.
"We talked to each other. We're like, 'We've got to do this right now. We've got four minutes to do what we've got to do to be successful.' "
The Storm's Vince Miszkiewicz had another great all-around game with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks and assisted two big 3s down the stretch with kick-out passes from the paint. Ashby, Drake Montgomery and Jace Warrick each had 8 points.
For Glenbard South (20-6, 13-4), third in the UEC, seniors Tommy Powers and Cole Hardtke and junior Nick Plaso each had 12 points and senior Ryan Harrington had 8 points.
"A big one (Wednesday). It's an opportunity to win the conference championship," South Elgin coach Brett Johnson said.
"I've told the kids you control your destiny, so tonight's game was that mentality. You decide how hard you want to play. You never know what can happen when you put forth effort. The effort in the third quarter by my team was phenomenal, the defensive effort."
The Storm's Alex Errington followed Ashby with his 3 from the corner for a 47-43 lead. Glenbard South closed to 49-48 on Cole Hardtke's 3 with 2.5 seconds, but before the inbounds pass, Miszkiewicz was fouled and made two free throws.
The 6-foot-7 Miszkiewicz then stood at the baseline and swatted away the Raiders' inbounds pass as time expired.
"It was a grinder, very physical game. We executed at the end and that's what mattered," Miszkiewicz said.
"I've been working with (Ashby) since freshman year. He's got a lot of confidence in himself and I knew he was going to hit (the 3) at that moment."
The Raiders gave an inspired performance in their first game without starting senior guard Tavion Keith, who suffered an apparent broken left wrist Thursday in practice.
Coach Wade Hardtke said there still an outside chance that Keith could return for the Class 3A regionals. Key reserve guard Cade Hardtke also has been out the past couple of weeks.
"A great effort. We keep talking about doing the little things and it's going to put you there down the stretch," Wade Hardtke said.
"Tons of positives. I hadn't seen that effort in a few games. That's probably the best start (11-3 lead) we've had in about five games. We played a solid first half. It was that spell in the third quarter that kind of cost us."
After chasing throughout the first half, the Storm gained confidence from their strong third quarter, in which they allowed just 6 points and held the Raiders scoreless for 5:42.
Trailing 25-23 at halftime, the Storm's 7-0 run resulted in their first lead at 30-27. South Elgin led 35-34 entering the fourth quarter.
"We knew the only way we were able to play (for first) Wednesday was to play defense," Miszkiewicz said. "We played phenomenal defense and when you play defense you can go a long way."