Kochera, St. Viator roll past Joliet Catholic
St. Viator had a couple of special ingredients in its Christmas cookies.
The Lions had a large spoonful of defense, coupled with the touch of Connor Kochera as Viator pulled away from visiting Joliet Catholic 49-34 in an East Suburban Catholic Conference boys basketball battle Friday in Arlington Heights.
St. Viator (6-2, 2-0) drew five charging calls against Joliet Catholic as the Hilltoppers had difficulty getting inside against the Lions all evening.
"I was proud of our guys," St. Viator coach Quin Hayes said. "I was proud of the way they guarded and the way we took charges. We got five and I thought we could have had seven."
Although Viator had the inside clamped down, Joliet Catholic (2-3, 0-1) was able to stay in the game early. The Hilltoppers used some deadly 3-point shooting and a matchup zone defense that coach Joe Gura unveiled to lead 8-5 on a pair of 3-pointers by Jake Bumstead.
"We have no size," Gura said. "So I put in a matchup zone from 1979 when I was at Lockport, because that's what fits these kids. And to their credit, they played it to the max tonight. We didn't get to a coupe of shooters where we should of."
The Lions finally found their footing and rattled off 9 unanswered points to take a 14-8 lead.
JCA tried to stay close as Bumstead canned a pair of 3-pointers to pull the Hilltoppers within two at 16-14. With an opportunity to tie, JCA was lulled into another charge call against them by the Lions.
Viator took full advantage with Pat Schumacher and Kochera each knocking downs 3s and Kochera had a bucket inside and suddenly Viator was up 10 at 24-14.
"We were really focusing on our defense tonight," said Kochera, the William and Mary commit who finished with 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
"Our effort really showed tonight and it got our offense going. Our big emphasis is our charges and it really gets us going. We had a lot of them today and it led to offensive energy and we got the ball inside, which really helped us."
Leading 24-17 at the break, Kochera and Michael Campagna each nailed 3-pointers for the Lions. Viator then went inside to 6-foot-7 Michael Huene for a basket and the Lions had a commanding 32-17 lead with 4:42 left in the third quarter.
"I have been putting in a lot of work leading into this season to improve my offense," said Huene, who finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds and a block. "Myself and Connor Benson have been working on our high-low game and it has helped."
Joliet Catholic was able to get it to 35-27 early in the fourth quarter thanks to a pair of 3-pointers from Drew Buss (9 points) and a 3 from Cristian Young.
Viator then used that inside-out game to surge to an 11-2 run to put the game away.
"In this conference every game is tough," Hayes said. "We are a good defensive team and trying to get better every day. Offensively, the high-low action we got tonight was fantastic. It also opened up our 3-point shooting."
Gura said he was pleased with his team's defensive effort.
"I am very, very happy with the evolution of the defense," Gura said. "To hold that team to the points we did and to make them work so hard. So many of their points came off of offensive rebounds. I also thought we go some good looks on our shots."