LISLE – Most high school basketball coaches will tell you opening the conference season with a win is a huge boost.
But they also will tell you having to get that victory on the road can be a tough task.
The Streator boys basketball team, using a 1-2-2 half-court trap, exploded in an 18-4 second quarter and then netted seven of the first eight points of the second half to hold a 22-point lead which made it look like Friday’s Illinois Central Eight Conference contest against Lisle would be an easy one.
However, the Lions took advantage of missed Bulldogs free throws in the fourth quarter to creep back in,. Each time Lisle got to within a couple of possessions, however, sophomore point guard Christian Benning had the answer.
Benning scored a game-high 32 points, including 19 in the second half and 10 of the Bulldogs’ 11 points in the final eight minutes, to help Streator earn a 53-47 victory to improve to 3-2 overall and 1-0 on the ICE loop.
“We installed (the 1-2-2 trap) this week for a couple of reasons. We wanted to get games up-tempo a little bit and to hopefully keep Christian out of foul trouble,” Streator coach Beau Doty said. “Christian is an athlete, and we also have athletic guys on the wings, so we think that defense can help us be a pretty destructive defensive team. I think we showed that tonight.
“We were missing a couple starters tonight and we couldn’t get a free throw to go, but we received huge contributions from Alex Ward and Dane Winterrowd. If they can give us what they gave us tonight on a consistent basis, we’ll reach our ceiling as a team.”
Streator (3-2, 1-0 ICE) used a quick 6-0 run early in the opening period to get a little separation, but Lisle (2-2, 0-1) closed the quarter on a 6-0 burst of its own to trail just 13-11.
In the second quarter, with the Bulldogs holding a 16-13 advantage, the locals exploded on a 15-0 run, with Benning netting four hoops and Jack Haynes (15 points, 10 rebounds) three, including an alley-oop dunk off an assist from Davey Rashid, with nearly all the baskets coming off turnovers caused by the trapping half-court pressure.
Streator led 31-15 at the intermission.
“I felt like we were pretty good in it,” said Benning, who also had five rebounds, two assists and four steals. “It gives us an opportunity to create offense from our defense, and I thought we were really clicking in it in the second quarter. We don’t always have to get baskets straight off the turnovers in it, but tonight we seemed to be able to get them with guys filling lanes or taking the ball to the hoop.”
Benning scored nine of the Bulldogs’ 11 third-quarter points as the visitors still held a comfortable 42-29 margin after three quarters. A free throw each by Benning and Rashid had Streator up 50-34 with two minutes to play before Lisle closed to within six, but that with only two seconds remaining.
Streator finished hitting 60% of its attempts from the field (22 of 37), but made good on only 6 of 20 (30%) from the charity stripe.
“[Lisle] did a really good job of keying on Jack in the second half, and he shot into some tough luck as well. But Christian did a good job of carrying the load in the second half and did a fantastic job of finishing at the rim,” Doty said.
“It got a little hairy there in the final minutes, but it seemed like every time Lisle would get to within striking distance, Christian would make a play to hold them off.”
Streator opens its home schedule in an ICE contest against Peotone at Lowell “Pops” Dale Gymnasium on Tuesday at 6:45 p.m.