DEPUE – Charlie Klinefelter has been preaching to his DePue Little Giants basketball team to practice the way they play.
On Tuesday, they found out why.
The Little Giants ran into a Newark Norsemen team whose intensity proved to be too much to handle, forcing DePue into about 30 turnovers en route to a 70-33 victory in Little Ten Conference play at the Giants Den.
“We have trouble with teams that play tough defense against us, even in practice,” Klinefelter said. “I keep trying to get it across to them. The way they practice is the way they play. So, if you play slow in practice and you come into a game and everybody’s playing fast, you can’t catch up.
“That’s our problem. A lot of our guys think they can play slow in practice and shoot against our guys, who aren’t playing good defense, OK, and they score. But when it comes to game time, it’s a lot different. And that’s what we really need to work on. And I think they understand that.”
Newark’s offense also proved bountiful, even without leading scorer Zach Carlson, who broke his finger in its last game. Tegan Kruser, who scored 17 points and hit five 3-pointers, Austin Tollefson, who scored 16 points and hit four threes and Grandon Mitchell, who scored 11 points and hit three 3s, combined for 44 points and 11 3-pointers and Mitchell Kruser added 10 points as the Norsemen evened their record to 11-11 overall and remained unbeaten in six conference games.
“Kind of anxious to see how the kids would react to [Carlson being out]. Thought they played hard and did well,” longtime Newark coach Rick Tollefson said.
Just three players scored for DePue (4-15, 1-5) – seniors Andres Moreno (16) and Kobey Hayes (11) and sophomore Francisco Moreno (6).
Newark jumped out to a 22-3 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back.
The Norsemen stretched their lead to 46-14 by halftime while forcing 20 DePue turnovers and sinking eight 3-pointers.
The Little Giants managed to play the Norsemen even in the third quarter at 12-all with Moreno scoring eight points, but they couldn’t prevent the running clock in the fourth quarter.
“We can’t make 30 turnovers and expect to be in the game” Klinefelter said. “Coach (Tollefson) does a great job over there. He’s been there for a while. Hate to see him retiring. I think he should stick around. Newark’s always tough, and it’s a good chance for us to see where we’re at this time of the season.
“We’ve been in some games, but when we play some physical teams they really get after us. We have to work on that. ... They’re a good bunch of kids, and I love ‘em, but I’m still going to tell them when they make mistakes.”
Tollefson praised DePue for playing hard to the end of the game.
“Second half, DePue played hard. Their kids keep coming at you. That says a lot about their character. They don’t give up. I appreciate it,” he said.
Tuesday’s win should keep the Norsemen in the top three for the conference seeding Wednesday night, Tollefson said.
“I think Somonauk would be 1 and then Hinckley 2 and us 3 probably, somewhere in there,” Tollefson said. “We play a pretty tough schools. We play a lot of 3A teams and try to keep at that level.”