Brandon Ruggles didnt want to let go of the Wheaton Cup.
Wheaton Academys 6-foot-3 senior forward clutched the trophy symbolic with the cross-town clash against St. Francis much like he did the basketball Wednesday night.
Ruggles provided a much-needed inside presence with a game-high 18 rebounds, while teammates Gordon Behr, Collin Roy and younger brother Josh Ruggles each added double-figure scoring totals during the Warriors 63-54 Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division triumph over the Spartans (18-7, 5-5) before a frenzied Warrior Dome crowd in West Chicago.
I love holding onto that thing because its a big game for us, Brandon Ruggles said of the Cup. Rumor has it that they thought we werent tough enough so I wanted to show them otherwise.
Ruggles, who had to sit out his junior season after transferring from Wheaton Warrenville South, had 7 points and 10 rebounds in the first 16 minutes as the Warriors (19-6, 9-1) grabbed a 29-17 halftime advantage.
Hes been doing that all year for us, Wheaton Academy coach Paul Ferguson said of Brandon. We had the brother combination going tonight.
Every time the Spartans made a second-half comeback, the Warriors had an answer thanks to solid ball movement and offensive execution.
After Kevin McShea split a pair of free throws with no time remaining in the third quarter to trim the Spartans deficit to 37-32, Behr (team-high 18 points) responded by hitting a 3-pointer in the opening minute of the fourth period to make it 40-32.
St. Francis fought to within 7 at 44-37 with 5:03 remaining and within 8 at 51-43 with 2:42 left only to watch sophomore guard Josh Ruggles (11 points) bury clutch 3-pointers at the other end for the Warriors.
Im really proud of the way our guys played, said Ferguson, whose team had lost a 64-63 decision to St. Francis on Jan. 18 in Wheaton. I thought we executed the scouting report and just played with a lot of composure.
St. Francis, which led briefly in the first quarter, received an 18-point effort from senior guard Andrew Kimball, who connected on five 3-pointers.
But the Spartans had problems recovering after being outscored 16-8 in the second quarter.
They kind of punched us in the second quarter and we were probably lucky to be down 29-17, said Spartans coach Bob Ward. They played well and made a lot of big shots. All the credit goes to them theyre 9-1 in the conference and theyre a pretty good team.
Tim Zettinger and Matt Bonner scored 14 and 11 points, respectively, for the Spartans, who trailed by as many as 14 in the third quarter.
We seemed to be trying to catch up all night long, said Ward. Thats a tough way to be against a good team.
By the same token, I thought our kids individually did a decent job on guys in their initial actions but the ball would go up and wed get crushed on the boards, added Ward, whose team was outrebounded 36-28.
Roy (16 points) put the game away by hitting 8 free throws in the final 1:43, helping to set off a wild on-floor celebration from the Warrior student section.
It was a fun game with a great atmosphere, said Ferguson. I think this is as good as it is in the western suburbs.
The two teams could meet again for the Class 3A regional championship next week at IMSA.
If we win and they win, then thats the one that is really going to matter, said the elder Ruggles.