By Randy Whalen
On all fronts, it was a successful trip to Lockport for the Stagg boys basketball team.
First, the Chargers got to experience being a part of the annual Veterans Night, which was held before the game. It was the fifth year where the Porters honored anyone who lives locally and served in the armed forces.
The snowy and cold weather on Jan. 25 kept the attendance down from what was hoped to include more than 100 veterans. Still, around 70 veterans were in attendance.
"This is outstanding, what they do," Stagg coach Marty Strus said of the Veterans Night. "It was my first experience with this and something to see. It gave our guys a great appreciation and it's because of veterans like this that we can play a basketball game."
Strus also had a great appreciation of how his team played, as the Chargers got a much-needed win by defeating Lockport 53-32 in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue matchup. The Chargers stormed out of the gate and took control, then didn't let up against a solid Porters team.
"I thought we just bought in," Strus said. "The kids just trusted what we've been telling them. They played good defense and did the job executing the game plan.
The Chargers limited the Porters’ 6-foot-8, 265-pound senior center Tommay Halatek to two points.
"It was our night. Credit our guys for being patient,” Strus said. “That's a big guy that they have at center and our guys got it done on defense."
The victory might be season-changing for the Chargers, who toppled Evergreen Park 60-40 the next day at the Beecher Shootout. Entering last weekend, Stagg (9-12, 1-4 in the SWSC Blue) had lost 12-of-15 after starting the season 4-0. But then won two games in 24 hours.
It was the second lopsided loss for Lockport (11-7, 2-2) in three days.
Martin Macenis, a senior forward who finished with a game-high 20 points, had 14 points in the first half against Lockport. That equaled the Porters’ output.
"We just came out feeling it," Macenis said. "We had to up the scoring. It was just a good step forward and we needed any win since we had a losing streak. But we just worked hard and stayed focused."
The game started well enough for the Porters as junior forward Tommy Ferriter (6 points) had a steal and layup 23 seconds in to open the scoring. But that would be Lockport's only lead. Stagg scored the next nine points and led 12-6 after the first quarter, and the score never got closer.
Ahead 14-8, Stagg junior guard Troy Huddleston scored all six of his points on back-to-back 3-pointers, as the Chargers outscored Lockport 16-6 to end the half and led 30-14 at intermission.
Senior guard Roy Huddleston (17 points) was also big for Stagg. The Porters, who shot 10-of-38 from the field, 11-of-20 from the line, and only hit one 3-pointer, never got closer than 15 in the third quarter and trailed 42-22 after three.
"Stagg makes you play a certain way and you have to adjust to that," Lockport coach Brett Hespell said. "But it's our job to figure that out. But the mark of a good team is how to handle adversity. Our moxie and swagger that we had is gone. But I believe in the kids in this locker room and we have to find it ASAP."
Huddleston (17 points) led the way in the win over Evergreen Park (9-14) on Jan. 24.