Wheaton North holds off Batavia's comeback
Connor Haake watched from in front of the Wheaton North bench as the ball rolled around the rim and dropped in.
His patience was rewarded.
Haake hit two critical 3-pointers late in Saturday's game -- and the Falcons needed both to hold off Batavia's comeback for a 57-52 win in the DuKane Conference opener for both teams.
"It's nice that the team is trusting me to shoot big shots," said Haake, who scored a game-high 20 points, 14 in the second half. "I was really hoping that one would go in. It was up in the air, hit the rim, was going around. Really happy it went in."
Wheaton North (3-0, 1-0) only trailed once, the game's first basket, and took a 42-34 lead to the fourth quarter on Haake's three-point play in the final seconds of the third quarter. Batavia (0-3, 0-1) closed to 42-38 with 5:20 left on Ethan Ivan's reverse layup, but out of a Wheaton North timeout Sam Cascella found Haake on a set play for a 3-pointer from the right wing.
A minute later, Haake's 3-point attempt from the left wing got the fortunate bounce, for a 50-42 lead.
"I was right behind him on that one and it didn't look online but somehow it snuck in," Wheaton North coach David Brackmann said. "You get some bad breaks in basketball, and you get some good ones. We got that one."
The Falcons, seeking their eighth straight winning season, are off to a flying start -- with a very inexperienced group. Haake, who scored 25 points in a win Wednesday over Sandburg, and Cascella are the only returning players with any significant varsity experience and neither scored much last year. Two other seniors, Troy Hegranes and Tristan Mackay, did not play last season.
Hegranes had 10 points and 6 rebounds Saturday.
"It's great to be able to win while we're still in the process of learning who we are," Brackmann said. "We're pretty inexperienced overall, going through some growing pains, but that being said we also made a lot of great plays. It's nice to win a few while we're still trying to get better."
Haake is grateful to step into a role and provide scoring punch. He missed five of his first six 3-point attempts Saturday before his two big ones.
"There was a role I needed to fill, I guess an open spot I needed to fill after we lost a lot of key players from last year," Haake said. "But we have other guys contributing a lot."
Batavia, on the flip side, is still searching for its first win, but efforts like Saturday's should get the Bulldogs there soon.
Ivan scored 18 points, 10 in the first quarter, his steal and score knotting it at 15-15 late in the first quarter. Trent Tousana added 11. The Bulldogs trailed by double figures after Cascella's score out of halftime, but came all the way back to 51-49 when A.J. Sanders followed his own miss with 1:02 left.
Sanders missed a 3-point attempt that would have got the margin to one, but provided a big spark defensively off the bench. Wheaton North hit six free throws in the final minute to hold on.
"We're still a work in progress and I do believe we'll get there," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. "There's good character, there's no doubt that we will fight all the time. I just think there's things we need to do better. The first half we made some very bad decisions with the ball and took some poor shots. We can't dig that hole we did."
Cascella's heave as time expired in the first quarter gave Wheaton North an 18-15 lead after a quarter, and it was 33-25 at half -- but Brackmann hardly expected that margin to keep.
"We're very similar teams that play hard and play physical," Brackmann said. "Usually when we play Batavia it's a very close game. Even when we were up eight or nine I knew they were going to keep fighting hard."