BARTLETT – It’s not easy to get Bartlett sophomore guard Kelton McEwen to leave a gym.
Just ask his coach, Jim Wolfsmith.
“We’ll have a 5:30 practice, over at 7:30, he asks, ‘Coach can I shoot?’ He’s not there for 10 minutes. He’s there for an hour. It’s 9 o’clock and I’m like, ‘Kelton, I’ve got to go, it’s past my bedtime.’
“He’s a gym rat,” Wolfsmith said. “You can see it in the way he plays the game.”
McEwen certainly showed how much that practice is paying off in a nonconference matchup Saturday against St. Charles North. McEwen scored 18 of his 26 points in the second half as the Hawks used a 14-0 run in the third quarter to earn a 56-50 victory.
“Kelton is just a smooth guard,” Wolfsmith said. “He can shoot it. He can handle it. You see him shoot free throws down the stretch to finish games. Just a smart, smart heady kid. He’s really stepped his game up.”
McEwen offered a simple reason for all his extra shooting.
“I just find it fun to be in the gym, getting shots up, working on my game because then it produces wins and I like to win a lot,” McEwen said.
McEwen led Bartlett (14-4) with eight points in the first half as the teams went to the locker room tied at 23.
After a steal and breakaway dunk by St. Charles North’s Ethan Marlowe to start the third quarter, McEwen swished a 3-pointer to put the Hawks ahead to stay.
Conrad Luczynski followed with an inside basket, McEwen made two free throws, Marty McCarthy scored on a drive, a McEwen layup and Jacob Magnanao’s 3 capped the 14 straight points that left the Hawks up 37-25.
Max Love finally ended the St. Charles North drought with a 3-pointer, then hit another from the corner to pull within 37-31.
The North Stars (10-10) fell behind again 45-34 early in the fourth quarter when the 7-foot-3 Luczynski finished with his left hand inside. Again Love led the North Stars back, getting as close as 52-48 and 54-50 in the final two minutes.
McEwen had the answer, scoring on a baseline floater, then going 4-for-4 at the line in the final :34.7 seconds.
“My teammates trust me to make shots at the end of the game,” McEwen said. “When they started pressing we did a good job taking care of the ball. It was good to get back on track against a really good team.”
Ian Smith added nine points and Luczynski scored eight as the Hawks rebounded from Tuesday’s loss to Upstate Eight-leading Larkin.
“I love where we’re at right now, staying together as a team,” said Wolfsmith, whose team is missing sharpshooter Nathan Scearce with a finger injury. “Guys are stepping up. Jacob Magnanao, he was good, Keegan Kunzer, flying around on defense. They are doing their roles. Great team win.”
Love matched McEwen with 26 points for the North Stars, who had a quick turnaround following Friday’s overtime loss to Wheaton Warrenville South.
“I’m sure it’s not easy but we need to be tougher than that,” North Stars coach Tom Poulin said. “This is a game we should win. It’s disappointing. We’re playing .500 basketball right now because we’re just not as consistent at things. We’re making too many mistakes from game to game. We need to pay attention to detail.”
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