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Wheaton Academy wins 4th straight league championship
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 2/6/2013 12:01 AM

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The Wheaton Academy boys basketball team has become old hat at this.

The Warriors clinched their fourth straight title in the Suburban Christian Conference on Tuesday with a 55-42 victory over Walther Lutheran in Melrose Park. The past two have come in the Blue Division after winning the Gold twice.

“It’s a great accomplishment for our program,” said coach Paul Ferguson, whose squad improved to 17-5, 8-1 in the SCC Blue. “I’m so proud of our guys. They really wanted this. We’ve just gotten better as the year went on, and this is a huge win on the road to clinch it.”

Seniors such as Collin Roy, Gabe Partain, Cole Fritz and Jake Cousins and junior Gordon Behr contributed to last season’s SCC Blue championship. Senior Brandon Ruggles was there, too, but after transferring from Wheaton Warrenville South was ineligible to play as a junior. That made Tuesday all the better.

“Last year it was sweet to win one, it was sweet to celebrate with the guys and to be a part of that, but this year feels even better to actually be competing on the floor and helping us get that in games,” said the 6-foot-3 guard, who scored 10 points with 11 rebounds.

Wheaton Academy’s key was containing Walther’s Jon Fuqua. Broncos coach Al Lainio said the 6-foot-5 senior forward was averaging some 23 points and 10 rebounds. Fuqua’s 29 Saturday at St. Francis wrecked the Spartans’ conference hopes.

Partain — “our defensive guy,” Ferguson said beforehand — limited Fuqua to 14 points and only 3 in a foul-plagued first half, though Fuqua finished with 10 boards.

“I wasn’t going to let him get the ball in the post,” Partain said.

Wheaton Academy led 21-16 with 3:27 before halftime when Fuqua drew his third foul running over Ruggles, an expert at drawing charges. Wheaton Academy’s 7-2 run to end the half featured the 6-8 Behr’s one-handed slam in traffic that had the crowd buzzing.

“That felt great,” Partain said of Fuqua picking up his third foul. “It gave us some relief. We got on a big run right there when he went out. It was helpful.”

More helpful was a transition-fueled 10-2 run out of halftime. Wheaton Academy led 41-26 after three quarters and midway through the fourth was up 52-32 over Walther (11-11, 4-5).

Behr scored 16 points, Partain 11 and Cousins 9. The Warriors forced 28 turnovers, Roy and Partain each with 4 steals.

“We told our guys before the game, defense travels. It did tonight,” Ferguson said.