Glenbard East senior Tyrese Buffkin was well aware that a sluggish second quarter might just give visiting West Chicago enough of a spark to enable the Wildcats to pull off an upset Tuesday night, so he and his fellow Rams wanted to change things up at the start of the second half.
The host Rams outscored West Chicago 6-5 in the second quarter to lead 19-10 at the break, but then used an 11-0 run to open the second half on their way to a 50-29 Upstate Eight Conference win, Glenbard East’s third in four league games.
“Coach told us it’s all about mentality and that we needed to come out stronger than ever,” the 6-foot-4 Buffkin said. “We came out real slow and if we go slow, that’s how they [Wildcats] work. They’re young and they didn’t start any seniors.
“Once you give a team like that any mojo they will come out stronger and more energized, but that’s how we beat them. We just stopped their mojo and we came out even stronger.”
Guard Jack Ryan started off the Rams’ big third with a 3-pointer followed by a 2-pointer for a 24-10 lead that led to a West Chicago timeout just 75 seconds into the second half. Ryan stayed hot from there, scoring 9 of his 12 points in the quarter, but the hosts also worked inside as Aleks Jajic and Buffkin combined for five baskets in the team’s 21-point outburst in the third quarter.
“The main thing on the offense, we were trying to pound it inside, especially to me and Aleks, so we would expose them inside,” said Buffkin, who scored a game-high 17 points and added eight rebounds. “Also, we really need to defend the home court, so it was a great conference win and we really needed this one after the Bartlett loss.”
With a 40-18 lead after three quarters the Rams were able to get several reserves plenty of minutes in the final quarter, which saw Trevor Rehnstrom drop in a pair of 3s and Terrell Hatter dish a couple assists and play some tough defense. Those were good signs for a team that will get even more reinforcements this week as key players Ari Pierson and Troy Cooper will return after missing time due to injury and illness.
Rams coach Al Biancalana is happy to see his 3-5 squad coming on strong and sporting a 3-1 UEC mark.
“We have such great kids and I’m happy to see them gain some confidence,” he said. “The kids are always doing the right thing, the practices are always good and it’s nice to see them getting the results.”
For the Wildcats (1-7, 0-3), sophomore guard Hudson Parker led the way with 10 points and junior forward Caleb Williams added 6 points and 4 rebounds.
“I’m disappointed we lost the game, absolutely,” West Chicago coach Bill Recchia said. “Am I disappointed with the effort and the growth that we’ve shown so far, absolutely not. We saw a lot of nice growth from some of the kids. It’ll happen through maturity and experience and we’re getting there. There’s no panic button being pressed by anybody on this team.”