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Basketball

Deep bench vital to Sycamore’s sectional berth

Class 3A Freeport Sectional preview capsule

SYCAMORE – Logan Wright’s one basket in the regional final against Hampshire would not have happened for many high school basketball players.

Most players wouldn’t have been in position to attempt the one-handed putback at the end of the first quarter that cut Hampshire’s lead to 14-12.

But Wright, representative of a Sycamore bench unit that has brought consistent energy each night, continued to run the floor as the Spartans launched a last-second 3-pointer. The shot caromed off, but Wright was in position for the putback, getting the shot off just before time expired.

“He’s very athletic. I thought that was a huge play,” Sycamore coach Andrew Stacy said. “That tip gave us a little momentum going in.”

On most nights Stacy will go 10 players deep on his roster, subbing in and out frequently to keep up the defensive pressure.

The versatility of bench players such as Wright, Nick Feuerbach, Jake Winters, Curtis Buzzard and Mark Skelley has helped a deep Sycamore team to its first regional championship since 2004. The Spartans play St. Francis at 7:30 p.m. today in the Class 3A Freeport Sectional semifinals.

In his second year as coach, Stacy has the roster to play his style.

“We thought when we looked at our personnel way back in the summer, we thought we had a lot of guys coming back and a lot of guys who were juniors,” Stacy said. “We wanted to play a style that would allow us to play as many guys as we could, and part of that was we thought we could press and wear guys out a bit.”

Wright’s putback was a bonus for Sycamore as the junior forward is mostly counted on for his defense and rebounding. His athleticism and length allows Wright to guard multiple positions. In practice, Wright battles teammate Scott Nelson in the paint, something that has helped improve his post defense.

“He is such a large body, it’s hard to defend against him and he’s really good,” Wright said. “It definitely helps me out.”

Offensively, junior Nick Feuerbach has been a spark off the bench, providing Sycamore its most consistent threat from outside. He hit a trio of 3-pointers against Hampshire, including one at the end of the third quarter to put Sycamore back up by seven.

“We’ve had our ups and downs during the season, but right now we’re really figuring out our spots on the team, how everything works,” Feuerbach said. “It’s all meshing right now.”

Junior Jake Winters spent much of the season as the team’s starting point guard, but now is the primary ball-handler coming off the bench. The experience gained early on has given Stacy another reliable point guard to switch in and out with starter David Compher.

The box score won’t always show the contributions of Sycamore’s second five, but it’s evident to anyone watching the first substitution Stacy makes.

“As a coach, you want to put people in there so you can maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses and put them in situations where they can be successful,” Stacy said. “I feel like we’ve got a good rotation going now and guys understand what’s expected of them and how hard you need to play when you’re on the floor ... especially in the state tournament.”

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