STREATOR – The Streator Bulldogs have been very tough to beat on their home floor in recent years.
Their 2022-23 home and Illinois Central Eight Conference opener against Lisle was only one game and much too small a sample size to draw any trends regarding the Bulldogs will do at home this winter. However, they looked awfully good Friday night at “Pops” Dale Gymnasium.
“It was a long week of practice, and we got a lot of work done, defensively and offensively, moving the ball,” Bulldogs sophomore guard Matt Williamson said after Streator’s 59-29 dismissal of the Lions. “Coming into the game, we just had a lot of energy – home-court advantage, we felt the energy from our teammates on the bench, the stands, the coaches, all the energy in warmups.
“We just brought it.”
Aside from a short-lived Lisle rally that briefly tied the game 12-12, Streator completely tamed the Lions. The Bulldogs – now 2-3 on the season – opened the game with a 7-0 run, responded to Lisle tying the game 12-all with a 12-point run and, as the game continued, tacked on runs of eight points and a dozen points for a second time to kick in the 30-point running clock with 4:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We know we were disappointed as a whole last week [going 1-3 in Ottawa’s Dean Riley “Shootin’ the Rock”] regardless of our youth,” Streator coach Beau Doty said. “But we like to have that full week of practice after Ottawa exposes our flaws to work on, and it comes down to guys coming out and executing, and we executed tonight. ...
“We came out 7-0 and just had good energy in the building. This is a great place to play with the fans and the energy we have here.”
Matt Williamson led the Bulldogs in points scored with 16 and rebounds with nine. Christian Benning put together a 13-point, eight-rebound, four-assist effort. Quinn Baker starred on the defensive end, holding Lisle big man Christopher Farrell to two points and two rebounds while collecting seven points and five rebounds of his own.
Landon Muntz scored nine points, Layton Finney came off the bench to add six points and five rebounds, and Adam Williamson contributed four points to the triumph.
Zachary Ebert’s seven points – all in the first half – led Lisle (2-2), which was frustrated by its inability to pound the ball into Farrell and, as a result, shot just 29.5% (13 of 44) compared with Streator’s 42.9% (21 of 49). The Bulldogs also outrebounded the Lions 38-25 and won the turnovers forced battle 13-5.
“We wanted to set the tone early defensively with Quinn’s size,” Doty said of the 6-foot-6 Baker guarding the 6-foot-5 all-state football player, Farrell, who came in averaging more than 20 points per game. “The thing Quinn’s been doing a great job of is he’s big and he’s been playing big. That’s something that he’s gotten better at since midsummer.
“Farrell is a load, and if you let him play with any space he’s going to burn you. ... [Defending him] had to be a team effort. Quinn set the tone with his size, but I thought our team defense – pressure on the wings – we brought it tonight in that regard.”
The Bulldogs started on the right paw, erupting for a 7-0 run over the game’s initial two minutes, with buckets coming courtesy of Baker (Matt Williamson assist), Matt Williamson (Benning assist) and a Muntz 3 (Benning assist). After Lisle answered and tied it, the Streator lead eventually reached 10 points (22-12) on a Finney layup 1:45 before halftime, 20 points (38-18) on a Baker bucket midway through the third quarter and 30 points (53-23) courtesy of a Finney free throw with 4:32 left.
The Bulldogs return to action Tuesday with an ICE Conference tilt at Peotone, then back to The Pops next weekend to host Wilmington on Friday and rival Ottawa on Saturday.