Defensive tiebreaker gives New Trier MLK Shootout title
Reserves help Trevians win 5 games in 4 days
January 21, 2013 09:48 PM
ROCKFORD – Defense really does win championships.
The New Trier boys basketball team concluded a grueling stretch of five games in four days Monday by capturing the tournament title at the first J-Hawk Martin Luther King Shootout event hosted by Rockford Jefferson.
Aaron Rosen scored eight points off the bench during New Trier's 62-49 win over Belvidere North Monday morning at the J-Hawk Martin Luther King Shooutout at Rockford Jefferson. (Photo by Tony Orona www.tophotoinc.smugmug.com)
By holding three of their four tournament opponents to under 40 points, the Trevians prevailed in a tiebreaker with the other unbeaten, Marian Catholic, in the eight-team field. The two teams didn't meet head-to-head, but New Trier surrendered only 157 points to Marian's 181.
New Trier completed its tourney sweep with triumphs over Belvidere North (56-39) and Fenton (59-33) on Monday, after also winning a doubleheader on Saturday against Belvidere (62-49) and Rockford Jefferson (63-36). Combined with a conference win over Niles West Friday, coach Scott Fricke's squad (19-4 overall) has reeled off five victories in a row since losing to Maine South.
New Trier senior forward Steven Cook was named Tournament MVP, and senior point guard Reid Berman was selected to the all-tournament team.
Fricke was particularly proud of the weekend performance at an event that severely tested New Trier's depth. But the program, as the saying goes, hangs its hat on its man-to-man defense and even the reserves responded with energetic efforts in that area.
Fricke bought time for the regulars whenever he could in the unusual two-games-in-one day format, and the squad was limited even more after two reserves – Charlie Suse and Ricky Samuelson – weren't available on Monday after both suffered minor injuries on Saturday.
All that adversity still added up to a tourney title.
"For us to have 19 wins and it's still January, that's a real testament to these kids," Fricke said. "That's really great after we lost some good kids from last year. We have a lot of new kids who are dedicated and have stepped up to play this year.
"There's no question that our guys were tired today, and it would've been easy for them to come out and not play hard (against two teams with a combined seven wins). But we try to play hard no matter who the opponent is, and they gave us everything they've got today on defense. I thought this would be a good time of the year for us to play our bench more and that's why we got into this tournament. They work so hard, whatever their roles are, and this is a time we can reward them. They all played some substantial minutes this weekend."
Cook, who netted 58 points in four tourney games, said finding energy wasn't easy for anyone, starters or back-ups.
"You could definitely say I'm tired," Cook said. "It felt a little like an AAU (summer) tournament, back when I played in Las Vegas or Orlando with five games in a row. It was tough to get moving. It just seemed like endless basketball.
"We knew coming in (to the finale against Fenton) that points allowed was the tiebreaker, and that we had to bring it all on defense. We said at halftime (leading 33-23) that we couldn't devalue our defense just because of who we were playing, that we wanted to play only one brand of basketball, and that's good basketball. It was not an easy situation, but we got it done."
Cook scored a team-high 18 points in the finale against Fenton, the only Trevian in double figures as Fricke judiciously spread out the court minutes. Other notable contributions came from Jordan Thomas (8 points), Stas Banas (5 points, 6 rebounds) and junior reserve Peter Lazic (5 points, 5 rebounds).
Six-foot-9 center Aaron Angel didn't fill up the stat sheet – with four points, two rebounds and two blocked shots – but his frisky and athletic play provided a spark you don't usually get from a big man.
He had two of his best scoring games (8 points and 10 points) in Saturday's double bill.
"Today he was out there blocking shots and diving on the court after four games in three days. He played great defense and he altered a lot of shots," Fricke praised. "Aaron had a great tournament. Saturday was the best I've ever seen him play, and he gave us a lot of energy today, too.
"Fenton hit some shots on us in the first half (despite going 5 ½ minutes without a field goal in the second quarter) and we went to our diamond trap just because we couldn't seem to get going. We wanted to turn the tempo of the game around, and when you can't get the ball past halfcourt, you're not gonna score."
Fenton turned the ball over seven times in the second quarter and seven more in the third quarter. New Trier outscored the Bison 15-4 in the third stanza to break the game open, as Cook added five points before getting a well-deserved rest on the bench. Sophomore David Hammes also scored a pair of layups and Angel's field goal boosted the Trevians to an insurmountable 48-27 advantage after three quarters.
New Trier actually trailed 17-16 against Fenton after the first quarter, but it was his team's ability to start fast that made it easier for Fricke to find respite for his starters in the first three games. New Trier piled up leads of 20-6, 21-4 and 18-12 in the other three tournament games after slow starts in the three games prior to this sweep.
An uncharacteristically poor shooting performance by Cook kept Belvidere North (4-12) in the game for a half on Monday morning. Cook missed a pair of dunk attempts and shot a mere 2-of-9 in the first half as Belvidere North hung around, down 27-19 at the half.
He finished with 12 points (5-of-15 shooting) and six rebounds, tying Thomas for team scoring honors. Aaron Rosen came off the bench to fire in eight points, and Berman added seven points, four assists and three steals while playing only half the contest.
New Trier's defense was so good that the losers couldn't even seem to make any free throws, sinking just 7-of-16 at the charity stripe.
"That's a well-coached team we beat," Fricke said. "They gave us some matchup problems with their little guys and made our big guys run around and chase them. We must have missed two dunks and five layups in the first half – we came out a little flat – but we came back and played much better in the second half.
"We played hard defensively, and it's hard to guard little kids who spread you out like they do."
Lazic, a seldom-used 6-1 junior guard who was a key player for last year's sophomore squad, was the second or third player off the bench on Monday. He moved up in the rotation with both Suse and Samuelson out of the mix and could see more minutes now after making a good impression on the coaching staff.
"We knew we needed a lot of bodies out there this weekend. Lazic gave us energy, and he scored in transition," Fricke said. "Once he starts to limit his turnovers a little more, I think he can be an effective player for us.
"To tell the truth, if we didn't win the tournament (due to the tiebreaker), I wouldn't have lost a minute of sleep over that. Playing here fulfilled every one of our goals, and having them spend so much time together as a team was definitely a good thing. And now they can all share in a championship."