MARENGO – The Sycamore boys basketball team was playing too slow, too sloppy, and Wauconda’s Dion Head was just too good for the first six minutes of the third quarter Saturday in the fifth-place game of the E.C. Nichols Tournament.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 15-2 run to take a five-point lead, but then Sycamore senior Cooper Vinz hit a 3-pointer, and Devin Mottet stole the inbounds pass to tie the game. All of a sudden, the Spartans took control of the game, using their depth to play at an up-tempo pace, and Sycamore went on to win, 55-44.
“It was like Christmas all over again,” senior point guard Daniel Evans said of Vinz’s slump-breaking shot. “That sparked the team right there.”
Although the Spartans were lethargic for the first six minutes of the third, when they knocked down only one field goal and committed six turnovers, the Spartans (9-3) relied on several role players to hit big shots throughout the game.
Evans, who was cleared to play early in December, scored four of his nine points in the first quarter, when the Spartans took an early lead. Evans and Jake Winters have combined to create a dynamic point guard duo, and both were effective throughout Saturday’s game.
“Both of our point guards did a great job in the second half of getting in our offense and getting us to do what we needed to do,” Sycamore coach Andrew Stacy said. “Two different styles, Daniel can really push it and get to the basket, where Jake’s really good at running the offense and getting the ball to guys for open looks. So it’s a nice two-headed monster that we have.”
Vinz scored eight of his team-high 13 points during a three-minute span that stretched from the third quarter to the fourth, sparking a 17-6 run that turned the tide in a game that seemed to be slipping away after Wauconda’s (10-4) run. The Spartans also relied on baskets from Winters, who finished with five points, Ben Bemis, and Nick Feuerbach late.
The ensemble cast of role players effectively supported returning Daily Chronicle All-Area forward Devin Mottet, who remained the focal point of the Sycamore offense as he scored 10 points.
“Different people step up every game,” Vinz said. “Sometimes we have Devin scoring 25, other times he scores eight and people like Daniel and Nick [Feuerbach] step up and they score. It just kind of depends on how the guards are.”
The Spartans will enter the thick of the conference season after a short break, and the 12-team, four game tournament was valuable preparation.
“It was a good tournament for us,” Stacy said. “I think we’ve gotten better and we’re going to continue to get better as the season goes along. I think when you play this many games in a short amount of time, you’re forced to really improve and come together as a team. I think we’ve done that.”