Kochera hits for 40 as St. Viator routs Waukegan
Forty points doesn't happen by accident.
"This is about putting in the work," St. Viator coach Quin Hayes said. "The work ethic that Connor (Kochera) has is second to none.
"I haven't seen any kid in all my years as a coach who works harder at all facets of the game, especially shooting. He gets thousands and thousands of shots up in the summer, and even during the season. That hard work pays off for him in games like today."
On Saturday afternoon, Kochera, a 6-foot-5 senior guard for St. Viator, rolled up a career-high 40 points in St. Viator's breezy 83-49 victory over Waukegan in the semifinals of the Martin Luther King Jr. Shootout at Lakes High School.
Kochera, who has committed to play basketball next year at Division I William & Mary and is on the brink of 1,000 career points, had 32 points at halftime. Kochera was taken out with 2:41 left in the third quarter as soon as he hit the 40-point milestone with a layup.
By that point, St. Viator, which improves to 12-7, was up by 42 points, 74-32.
"I just wanted to go out there and do my thing, attack the rim early and get some easy buckets and that led to some 3-pointers," said Kochera, who finished with four 3-pointers. "Obviously, I'm not trying to force anything. I'm also trying to keep everyone else involved. But when I have an open shot, obviously I'm trying to knock it down every time.
"I always feel confident and I always feel like the next shot is going in, and on nights like these, it's fun."
Kochera had 20 points in the first quarter alone, and St. Viator took a 30-13 lead into the second quarter against a Waukegan team that has won just one game this season with multiple freshmen who play key minutes.
The Bulldogs graduated 95 percent of all of their points, rebounds and assists from last season.
"We are just young and really struggling to figure it out," Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw said. "They (St. Viator) are very good, very veteran and very experienced, and this is going to happen.
"We play with four freshmen out there. They've had to learn how to do this. The strength and speed at this level is just so much for this group, more than they can handle right now.
"And (Connor Kochera) is just really, really good."
Kochera was St. Viator's only player in double-figures, but because he and the starters built up such a big lead, the Lions cleared the bench and had reserves playing the entire fourth quarter.
Nine players scored for St. Viator, including starter Owen Hickey, who had 8 points and reserves Jake Pasko and Aidan Harrington, who had 8 and 7 points respectively.
Amari Leflore topped Waukegan with 14 points. Tavion Strawder-Craigen had 9 points.
St. Viator, which had lost three straight games to Notre Dame, Loyola and St. Patrick, now advances to Monday's championship game at Lakes and will play Naperville Central, a 45-36 winner over Highland Park in Saturday's second semifinal.
"We had been struggling with those three straight losses, so now we've just got to keep on building on this," Hayes said.