WITH ENTRANCE VIDEO: Bulldogs Dominate The Paint Against Waubonsie
Batavia's Cole Gardner and Elliot Vaughn control the interior in the Bulldogs' win over Waubonsie Valley Saturday.
After struggling from the free-throw line in a close loss to Elgin Thursday, the Batavia boys basketball team hit the fundamentals Friday.
"After we run sprints, we want to try to get to the line right away, because we're tired," Batavia senior Elliot Vaughn said. "It really pays off."
It certainly did in Saturday's 68-61 Upstate Eight crossover win over Waubonsie Valley. Vaughn led the charge, going 9-of-10 from the line on his own. Then he, Jesse Coffey, Mike Rueffer and Zach Strittmatter each hit a pair of free throws in the final minute to ice the win.
"We had the mindset that we needed to hit free throws," Vaughn said. "If we hit free throws, we win that game (against Elgin). We knew that would be key for us."
The free throw shooting was certainly a difference, but the play of Vaughn and Cole Gardner in the paint set the tone all night. The duo combined for 14 rebounds and 42 points on 14-of-20 shooting from the field and 14-of-16 shooting from the free-throw line.
"It's a key for us every game," Vaughn said. "It's one thing that we want to establish going into every game, getting it inside. That sets everything else up, the outside game, kicking it out to the guards. It's a big key for us."
Batavia (5-4 overall) trailed Waubonsie (6-3) after the first two quarters, thanks to buzzer-beaters at the end of each period from Jakobi Johnson. Johnson's rebound tip-in at the end of the first capped an 8-0 run that gave the Warriors an 18-14 lead. His jumper at the end of the second gave Waubonsie a 32-27 lead.
But in the third, Gardner started to take over down low. He scored 11 of his 19 points in the period. In one stretch, Gardner and Vaughn combined to score 17 straight Batavia points, all coming in the paint or at the free-throw line. The Bulldogs wound up tied at 47-47 after three.
"I thought Cole's third quarter was a big key," Batavia coach Jim Roberts said. "And all the kids shooting free throws down the stretch was a big key. They did a good job of concentrating and knocking them down. Those are big keys."
The Bulldogs find themselves over .500 with the always-rugged Elgin tournament facing them down on Monday. Roberts said his team has been in every game despite the 5-4 record, and Saturday's win helped in many ways.
"With the loss on Thursday, it gets that bad taste out of our mouths and it sets us up with the mindset that we can play with most teams," Vaughn said. "We have some momentum right now with the win."