Batavia earns its shot at No. 1 seed Oswego
While it is win or go home time in the Illinois High School Association's basketball tournament, Batavia managed to win and stay home for at least another day Monday night.
Jake Pollack and Micah Coffey scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, and each connected on three 3-pointers to help lift the 17th-seeded Bulldogs (12-14) to a 61-52 victory over No. 16 Plainfield East (11-15) in the opening round of the Class 4A regional tournament at Batavia.
Batavia, which never trailed, jumped on the Bengals from the outset and grabbed a 13-4 first-quarter lead.
"We kind of got jumped on in the first quarter last Thursday (against Lake Park) so we made that an emphasis this week," said Coffey. "We decided that it was time for us to come out and punch somebody in the first quarter."
"I thought the first quarter was a big part in the game, being able to hold them to four points," said Batavia coach Jim Nazos, who won his postseason debut for the Bulldogs. "Actually having them play from behind the whole way was important."
Coffey helped the Bulldogs maintain their 29-25 halftime lead by scoring 11 of the team's 16 second-quarter points — including three 3-pointers.
Plainfield East made a third-quarter run, tying the game at 39-39 on Myles Ward's 3-pointer from the top of the key with 26 seconds remaining in the period.
But senior guard Mike Rueffer (9 points) converted a 3-point play with 8.9 seconds left in the third quarter — his first points of the night — to give the Bulldogs the lead to stay at 42-39.
Batavia then scored the first 6 points of the fourth quarter, 4 of them coming from senior reserve Mike Carlson (4 points, 11 rebounds), to open a 48-39 lead with 5:35 remaining.
Plainfield East drew within 5 twice in the final 2 minutes but Coffey, Rueffer, and Pollack each canned a pair of free throws down the stretch to secure the Bulldogs' first postseason victory since 2010 (67-60 over Glenbard West).
"It has been a couple years but that's a whole season of hard work put into action right there," said Coffey of his team's regional win. "We feel good about it."
With the victory, Batavia advances to tonight's regional semifinal clash with top-seeded Oswego (26-2). Led by guards Miles Simelton and Elliott McGaughy, the Panthers carry a 15-game winning streak into the game.
"I think we're a pretty good defensive team, especially on our home court," said Coffey.
"They're a great team but it's that time of the year," Nazos said of Oswego, which handed Plainfield East a pair of double-digit losses (by 18 and 13 points) earlier this season. "You've got to play well.
"We love the opportunity and we're on our court," added the coach. "Every single player in there (locker room) welcomes the opportunity."
Nick Novak paced the Bengals with 16 points, including four 3-pointers, while Joshua Smith and Ward added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
However, the Bulldogs held Plainfield East guard Aaron Jordan — whom Nazos called "one of the best sophomores in the state" to 8 points on 3-of-15 shooting.
"The effort that our guys put in — Mike, Jake and Zach — all of our guys defensively was huge tonight," said Coffey. "They didn't get many open looks."
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