When you’re facing the state’s top-ranked team, you can expect a little star gazing to occur.
For the most part, that wasn’t the case for the Batavia’s boys basketball team during Saturday night’s showdown with nationally ranked (No. 4) and unbeaten Simeon (20-0).
While the Bulldogs (10-11) eventually dropped a 72-59 decision to the Wolverines, their 18th annual Night of Hoops was far from a disappointment even in defeat.
“I was very proud of our kids’ effort,” said Batavia Coach Jim Roberts, whose team trailed 21-13 after one quarter and 40-23 at halftime. “Every mistake against a team like this is magnified. Every error, they’ll make you pay.”
Super sophomore Jabari Parker, one of the nation’s most prized recruits, netted 13 of his team-leading 16 points in the first quarter for the Wolverines. But Parker wasn’t alone, as Simeon’s strong supporting cast included Darrien Walker (11 points), Steve Taylor (10 points), Rashawn McElrath (7 points) and Kevin Hunter (6 points).
“They’re a team with great talent,” Roberts said of Simeon. “They play extremely hard and they’re very disciplined. One of the things that people tend to forget is that Robert Smith is a heck of a coach. They don’t beat themselves.”
Junior power forward Cole Gardner (12 points) got the Bulldogs off to a solid start with 6 first-quarter points while sophomore guard Mike Rueffer (11 points) added a 3-pointer and free throw in the first eight minutes of action.
Senior guard Jesse Coffey scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on three of his six 3-point baskets.
“I thought he was in a good rhythm,” Roberts said of Coffey. “He moved well without the basketball and guys got him the ball in his wheel house.”
Coffey was glad to have an opportunity to face what many experts feel is the state’s best team.
“It’s definitely a great experience,” Coffey said. “Being able to play a team as good as they are in a venue like this is pretty special.”
The Bulldogs showed they can compete, outscoring Simeon 36-32 in the second half before a capacity crowd.
“Everyone is searching to play the perfect game and obviously we didn’t play one tonight, but we did a lot of good things,” Roberts said. “You try to put your kids in situations where they have to execute at an extremely high level.”
Despite the loss, plenty of special memories were made Saturday night.
“It’s definitely something I’ll remember," Coffey said. “It definitely was good for our team, too.”