MARENGO – For more than 16 minutes, Sycamore's boys basketball team appeared to have things under control.
The Spartans led Richmond-Burton by double figures early in the second quarter and were keeping the Rockets from finding any offensive rhythm.
But that's when everything changed. Richmond-Burton threw an unorthodox full-court press on Sycamore and by the end of Saturday's opener of the 64th annual E.C Nichols Tournament opener had forced 23 Spartan turnovers.
That combined with an off-night of Sycamore perimeter shooting and the final result – a 54-48 Richmond-Burton victory – proved to be predictable.
"We just had too many careless turnovers," Spartans coach Andrew Stacy said. "We just didn't do a good job making decisions."
The Rockets (5-3) overcame a shaky start when they fell behind 18-6. That prompted R-B coach Brandon Creason to call timeout and bite into his team verbally. At the time, R-B had all of two field goals and 10 turnovers and weren't able to rebound.
By the end of the second quarter, R-B trailed by only five before using a full-court press that helped spark a 16-4 run that gave the Rockets a 38-35 lead. Senior guard Brian Wells led the surge, scoring a team-high 13 points while freshman center Joe St. Pierre – playing for the first time since suffering a strained calf muscle more than a week ago – chipped in with 12.
Once the Rockets had the lead, they never looked back. It started with defense.
"I thought they did a good job of keeping the pressure up," Creason said. "Eventually, it started to show and it got to Sycamore a little bit. As a coach, you have to remind yourself that we have some young guys on this squad and they're going to have some up and down moments."
Sycamore was led by Devin Mottet's 10 points and got nine each from Nick Feuerbach, Ben Niemann and Mark Skelley.
Sycamore got to within 46-41 with 1:48 remaining but R-B finished strong, outscoring Sycamore 16-11 in the fourth quarter. The Rockets still didn't click entirely offensively, but led by as many as seven before closing the game out by hitting just enough free throws.
For Sycamore, the unforced errors proved to be too costly in the end.
"When you turn the ball over 23 times, that's 23 times you come down the floor and don't get a shot," Stacy said. "You can't do that in a close game and you can't do that against a good team. (R-B) capitalized on those turnovers."