Just ask Wheaton Academy senior Cole Fritz why classmate Brandon Ruggles leads DuPage County in rebounding.
“He’s just a horse,” Fritz said of Ruggles. He outworks everyone in there. Playing against him in practice, I hate rebounding against him because I know he’s going to work as hard as he can to get that board. And he takes a ton of charges. I think he has over 30 charges.”
“Brandon’s been doing that all year long for us,” added Warriors coach Paul Ferguson. “He leads the area in rebounding for a reason. He just never stops. He’s relentless on the glass. We can count on him to clean up that glass every time.”
That kind of play set the tone early, with Wheaton Academy holding visiting Kaneland to just 12 first-half points in a 66-46 nonconference victory in West Chicago.
“A lot of it was our defense. We really disrupted them with our full-court pressure,” Fritz added. “We’ve really been working on defense hard the past few weeks. We know if we want to get to the next level, we need to step up our defense.”
Fritz stepped up too, celebrating his Senior Night with a starting assignment and playing a key complementary role.
“Cole Fritz has been a utility guy for us all year and he just comes in and does all the little things, and we didn’t miss a beat with Cole out there,” Ferguson said.
The Warriors (18-5) jumped out to a 10-0 lead as Kaneland missed its first nine shots before Drew David connected from the top of the key with 47.8 seconds left in the first quarter.
“It was a rough start,” Kaneland coach Brian Johnson said. “When you get in a hole like that it’s hard to dig yourself out of.”
It didn’t help that Ruggles made sure the Knights (13-9) weren’t getting any second chances, finishing with 8 rebounds, held below his 12.1 season average only by foul trouble and the opportunity in the fourth quarter to empty the bench.
Kaneland managed to whittle the Wheaton Academy lead down from 22 to 12 in the third quarter, but the Warriors pulled away again, leading by as much as 27 points after Collin Roy and Gabe Partain hit a 3-pointer apiece midway through the fourth quarter.
“We got it down to 12 and then we turned the ball over three times in a row and they capitalized on it,” Johnson said.
Roy continued to lead Wheaton Academy offensively, scoring a game-high 29 points on 8-of-14 shooting, including four 3-point shots.
“He’s incredible,” Fritz said. “He’s had a couple of huge games, and he just does everything: offense, defense, he can shoot, he can drive. He’s been the bread and butter of our team this year, the core foundation. He’s had an awesome year.”
Junior Gordon Behr came off the bench to add 12 points.
Matt Limbrunner scored 16 points, 14 of them in the third quarter, for Kaneland, which has followed a seven-game winning streak with its third consecutive loss.
“We’re going to have to figure out when we play on Tuesday against St. Charles North how to come out stronger and with a little more energy,” Johnson said. “We’re still a little tentative. Guys aren’t looking to score like they need to be. It’s a process. Here we are toward the end of the season and we’ve still got to get better.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.