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South Elgin stymies Batavia over final 5 minutes
By Craig Brueske | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 2/24/2012 1:06 AM

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South Elgin basketball coach Chaz Taft didn't want his team to enter next week's Class 4A regional tournament with a losing streak.

Thanks to a stingy defensive effort and some excellent offensive execution down the stretch, the Storm (11-15) will bring a little momentum into postseason play after Thursday night's 46-41 Upstate Eight Conference crossover victory over host Batavia (7-18).

South Elgin, which had dropped 7 of its last 8, scored the game's final 6 points and held the Bulldogs to just 1 basket over the last 5:26.

"It was a big win for us, especially coming off the end of the stretch there," said Taft, whose team begins regional action against Streamwood Monday at St. Charles North. "We played a tough game against a physical team. It's just a great overall win to give us some confidence going into the state tournament."

After Batavia took a 41-40 lead on a banked-in 12-foot jumper by Cole Gardner with 2:44 remaining, the Storm answered with a pretty give-and-go, as point guard Jake Maestranzi found Ryne Lundy for a layup that not only put South Elgin on top, 42-41, but drew Gardner's fifth foul with 1:29 left.

"What we were saying the whole half was to get Gardner in a ball screen and let Jake draw the foul on him," said Taft. "When he (Gardner) jumped out, he let that separation for Ryne Lundy to get wide-open in the lane."

Maestranzi, who had 12 points, including 3 free throws over the final 42 seconds, credited Lundy on the go-ahead basket.

"He made a great screen and great roll," said Maestranzi, who added 6 assists. "I just had to find him."

Senior center Matthew Downing contributed 6 points and 6 rebounds for the Storm, who were led in scoring by sophomore guard Darius Wells (14 points).

"Our posts came up pretty big on our pick-and-roll plays tonight," said Taft.

Zach Strittmatter and Mike Rueffer tallied 11 points apiece for Batavia, which had its 3-game winning streak snapped.

The Bulldogs were held scoreless over the final 2:43, turning the ball over once and misfiring on a pair of free throws while trailing 43-41 with 24 seconds remaining.

"Obviously they did a better job than we did," Batavia coach Jim Roberts said when asked about his team's offensive execution down the stretch. "I thought there were a couple possessions where defensively we did a good job but we didn't pick up the loose ball.

"Defensively, I think we held them to 19 points in the second half," added Roberts. "Our guys gave themselves some chances. That was very positive but unfortunately we didn't do enough with them."

Gardner, who played just 2 minutes and 54 seconds of the first half after being whistled for 2 quick fouls, finished with 5 points.

In his absence, juniors Luke Horton and Mike Carlson combined for 6 points and 10 rebounds.

"I thought Luke and Mike did some good things for us," said Roberts, whose team opens regional play against rival Geneva Monday at Metea Valley. "Obviously we'd like to keep Cole (Gardner) on the floor but that didn't happen."