Chomping on the Gators

  • Written by Ken Karson

Knights overpower Guerin Prep to stop slide

Forget the idea that eight is enough - when it comes to losses, seven was sufficient for Chicago Christian.
That was the length of the skid the Knights brought with them into Saturday night’s Suburban Christian Conference contest versus Guerin Prep. The Gators had suffered an earlier setback to Chicago Christian, but Knights coach Kevin Pittman - who was unable to be in attendance then because of two technical fouls called on him one game before that - still felt his club had something to prove.
“We’re better now than we were, even though we haven’t had a lot to show for it,” he said.

Then Christian proceeded to demonstrate to Guerin exactly what Pittman meant. A 15-5 getaway for the Knights put them in command, and a relentless defense kept them there.
The Gators, who committed 13 miscues on their first 16 possessions, ended the evening with a whopping 35 turnovers and wound up on the short end of a 71-57 final. Guerin’s turnover total was the highest amount Christian (8-16, 2-7) had forced in three years, and the hosts netted 18 points off the errors.
“Our kids responded [to the challenge] and we controlled that game throughout,” said Pittman, whose team got up by as many as 26 points at one juncture before the Gators narrowed the gap.
“The game never seemed in doubt. It was a nice thing for our seniors [on Senior Night].”
While Pittman was obviously pleased with the Knights’ show of dominance, he was glad just to see Christian halt its slide, no matter how it happened.
“I would have taken a half-point win to break that streak,” Pittman joked. “Those losses can beat you down.”
Trevor Wolterink tossed in 22 points to pace the Knights, while Blaine Wright contributed 16 points, six steals and five assists to the winning cause. Marcus Parker had 11 points and Bradford Fitzpatrick delivered six points and six boards.
Sixteen of Christian’s 24 buckets came directly off assists, and the Knights kept their turnovers to a manageable 15.
“We did a good job of getting ball movement,” Pittman said.
Illiana Christian 64
Chicago Christian 58
While the Knights had a good turnout on Saturday night, it didn’t equal Friday night’s madhouse in Lansing, where Chicago Christian renewed acquaintances with a longtime rival.
But even with the Vikings’ fans in full voice, the Knights were able to apply an early silencer. Each of Illiana’s first five possessions ended with a turnover, and Chicago Christian capitalized on three of those mistakes to stake itself to a 6-0 lead.
The Vikings eventually righted themselves, but they still trailed by two at the quarter break and by five points three minutes into the second period.
“Judging from records, I don’t think anybody thought we would go in there and win, except us,” Pittman said. “We talked about increasing our defense, and I think we did that. When your defense leads to offense like that, it can result in tremendous momentum being built.”
Of course, that theory applies to every team, and Illiana soon got its chance to strike. A pair of Knights errors, coupled with a few ill-advised shots, undermined the visitors enough to where they were victimized by a 13-0 Vikings surge during the second stanza. Offensively, a pair of Marcus Ottenhoff 3-balls triggered Illiana’s run.
“That just seemed to zap the energy from us,” Pittman said. “Our young kids in this one seemed to be rattled by the whole thing.
“Under the bright lights, sometimes things are exposed. When push comes to shove, [the players] revert back to old habits and those things are hard to break. But I think it’s good to play those [types of] games.”
The Vikings carried a 33-26 edge with them into intermission, but then began the third quarter in much the same manner as they had gotten the opening period underway. Another series of turnovers, including a Luke Boss steal that led to Fitzpatrick’s putback, had Chicago Christian breathing down Illiana’s neck once more.
Wright’s swipe then gave the Knights an opportunity to perhaps pull even, but the visitors missed a short shot and then turned the ball over themselves. That briefly stalled Chicago Christian’s rally, but the Knights eventually grabbed a 37-33 lead.
A 6-1 push by the Vikings got the advantage back for them and, except for a 41-all tie at the end of the period, Chicago Christian remained in arrears. Two layups and a free throw handed Illiana a 46-41 lead at the onset of the fourth stanza, and a bit later William Rose’s 3-pointer from the top of the key sank a dagger into the Knights.
“Anything that can go wrong will,” Pittman said. “That’s the way it seems to be for us this season.”
Chicago Christian did make one last lunge at the Vikings, reducing an eight-point deficit to three in just over a minute, but Illiana held on by burying several free throws in the final 50 seconds. For the night, the home team went 19-of-25 at the stripe, with Caleb Jonkman’s 12-of-12 effort serving as the focal point.
That solid foul shooting helped the Vikings neutralize 23 turnovers. The Knights committed six fewer miscues, but were hamstrung by 36 percent shooting from the floor and eight missed free throws.
Wright was Chicago Christian’s brightest light in defeat as he totaled 17 points, five steals, three rebounds and two assists. Fitzpatrick (11 points, eight rebounds) and Jay Spencer (10 points) were other Knights notables.
Chicago Christian concludes its regular season this week against Timothy Christian and Montini.
Chicago Christian 16 10 15 17 - 58
Illiana Christian 14 19 8 23 - 64
Chicago Christian Scoring: Wright 17, Fitzpatrick 11, Spencer 10, Parker 6, Wolterink 5, Leo 4, Boss 3, Washington 2. Rebounds: Fitzpatrick 8. Assists: Leo 2, Wright 2. Steals: Wright 5.

Guerin Prep 5 16 17 19 - 57
Chicago Christian 15 16 17 23 - 71
Chicago Christian Scoring: Wolterink 22, Wright 16, Parker 11, Fitzpatrick 6, Leo 6, Washington 6, T. Decker 2, Frierson 2. Rebounds: Fitzpatrick 6. Assists: Wright 5. Steals: Wright 6.