East Aurora hands St. Charles East season-opening loss

 
 
Updated 11/22/2021 10:41 PM

Jullian Acosta is East Aurora's "Swiss Army Knife."

"I can play him at any position and I know what I'm going to get from him," East Aurora coach Rick Robinson said following the Tomcats' convincing 74-55 season-opening victory at the St. Charles East Thanksgiving tournament on Monday.

 

Acosta, a senior, certainly impressed with 19 points, 11 rebounds, seven steals and six assists in 28 minutes of action.

"Listen, that's an average game for him ... I just got on his butt the other day: I said 'You know what, Julian? You haven't been playing hard," Robinson said. "'If you play hard like I know you [can], there's no reason why you shouldn't be getting some mentions for all-state [recognitions] and things like that'. As you see, he came out and did what he needed to do."

Robinson has been a "really big impact" on Acosta dating back to his freshman season.

"I've been overlooked a lot," Acosta said. "Freshman year, my season was cut short because of injury. Sophomore year, I had the same sort of ankle injuries and a heart injury, so throughout all of high school, I've been overlooked and it's been really getting to me. I knew I had to come out this year and make a statement. That's what I'm trying to do."

It's only game one, but "it's not good enough" yet. Acosta knows he has a long way to go.

"I feel like I got a lot better things I can do," Acosta said.

The Tomcats took a 33-23 halftime advantage, then blew the game wide open with a 23-5 advantage over the Saints (0-1) in the third quarter. The scoring effort was highlighted by Acosta's dunk to make it a 20-point game.

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"A lot of summer time work, stuff like that," Acosta said on the dunk. "I knew we needed a big play to get my teammates and my guys going ... that's my job as a senior leader, so I had to come up with a big play to get my guys fired up. Our goal was to win the third quarter; we win the game. I had to do what I had to do. I went on a little scoring streak by myself, but as a senior leader, that's what I had to do."

The Tomcats were also led by Calvin Savage (16 points, four rebounds), Jabian Acosta (14 points, nine rebounds) and Ralph Clark's 10 points and five rebounds.

The Saints, coming off a 3-11 shortened season campaign, are working on developing a corps led by Rahul Gor and Trent Warren.

Monday, though, proved to be a rough start. The Saints finished with 28 turnovers and struggled from beyond the arc, shooting 7-for-28.

"You're not going to win a game with 28 turnovers," St. Charles East coach Pat Woods said. "I think they had 32 points off our turnovers, so that's the only stat I need to see; that, and 7-for-28 from 3. That's not going to do anyone any good. Got a long way to go. We're happy to be back, but we've got a long way to go."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The Saints were led by Gor's 12 points and three rebounds. Jack Borri added eight points and AJ Gaca and Trent Warren each added five points for an otherwise forgettable opening night team performance.

"I think we've just got to execute better because we had a game plan: [No] turnovers, just get past half court because we knew they were going to come in aggressive and try to steal the ball from us," Gor said. "But, just getting to the other side of the court without turning it over, that's what the most frustrating part was because we talked about that before."

Huntley 65, Grayslake North 35:

Ben Ahmer and Huntley knew how to start a season.

The senior scored 17 points, and the Red Raiders never trailed in their season opener against Grayslake North, a 65-35 win Monday night.

"We got off to a nice start; we knocked down some open looks," Huntley coach Will Benson said. "Defense set the tone."

Huntley took control of the opening game of the Johnsburg/Richmond-Burton Thanksgiving Tournament right from the start, running out to a 16-2 lead. The Red Raiders ran their offense, setting screens and finding open looks in the post and from 3-point range.

The Red Raiders led 22-10 after the first quarter and stalled in the second quarter when Benson tried to get some one-on-one matchups. Once Huntley returned to running its sets, the Red Raiders' offense continued to move again and they led 37-16 at the half. Huntley never led by less than 20 the rest of the game.

"I think we were just patient," Ahmer said. "We've been working really hard. We have a good defense, like seeing a defense not as good as ours, we got a lot of open looks that way."

All of Huntley's starters scored, with Nathan Ayr adding 13 points and John Kramer scoring nine points. Adam Guazzo finished with four points and seven rebounds.

Sharing the wealth was the key for the Huntley offense. The Knights couldn't focus on one or two players to isolate on defense, leading to a wide range of shots for Red Raiders players throughout the game.

"When we share the ball, we can be pretty tough," Benson said. "We're fortunate to have some guys who can do some stuff offensively."

Dominic Jankowski led the way for Grayslake North with 12 points, and Vittorio Vizzini added 10 points.

Grayslake North will take on Geneva on Tuesday in the second day of the tournament, while Huntley will play Johnsburg.

Benson knows the Skyhawks like to run a fast offense and will feature some Division I talent, which will be a good challenge for a defense that locked down the Knights in their first test of the season.

Although it's nice to start the season with a big win, the Red Raiders know there's a long way to go.

"We want to build from this," Ahmer said. "We want to keep the momentum going."

-- Michal Dwojak

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