By Randy Whalen
Team don’t often look forward to a long layoff during the season, particularly when the season is less than 10 games old.
But after last week, that's exactly what Stagg may need.
The Chargers never got going on offense and lost to Lockport 49-27 in a SouthWest Suburban Conference crossover Dec. 13 in the Porters’ home opener.
It was the fourth straight loss for Stagg (3-5) and its lowest point output in at least four seasons.
The victory was the second straight for the Porters (3-4) following a 51-38 win over Reavis on Dec. 9 in Burbank. It was also the first victory for Lockport over the Chargers since 2015 in “The Pit" at Lockport Central. Stagg had won nine straight over the Porters since then and Porter coach Brett Hespell, who is now in his fifth season as head coach, had never defeated the Chargers.
That all changed as Lockport limited the Chargers in almost every aspect.
"We just clearly weren't ready to play," Stagg coach Marty Strus said. "That's on me. I wouldn't say scoring has been an issue, but we looked lifeless out there. It's hard to make shots when you are shooting them flat-footed.”
The Chargers played Lincoln-Way East Monday and then began a stretch of nine days with no games.
“We need some practice,” Strus added. “We need some work and we need to see how we respond."
Hespell is a big fan of Strus. Both coaches are Homer Glen residents.
"Marty is a great coach and [the Chargers] will have their share of moments." Hespell said. "But we showed maturity. The kids are buying in and the way we are playing now is how we want to be. The kids had that experience but there's no ego on this team. We had a lot of energy for this game. The kids went out and did what they were supposed to do.
"Our defense was awesome. The team needed to play great defense and we did."
In the teams’ final meeting last season on Feb. 19, Lockport’s Tim DiCristofano had a rebound basket with seven seconds to play to cap a Porter comeback from 14 points down with five minutes to play in the game; however, Stagg’s Nick Harper tipped up a rebound basket from about 11 feet out at the buzzer to give Stagg a scintillating 39-38 Senior Night victory.
With the Chargers switching to the Red Division of the SWSC this season, last week’s meeting was the only regular season game between the teams. So DiCristofano, who scored 10 points and added four assists in Friday's win, really wanted this one.
"I definitely wanted to get this win," he said. "Especially after last year."
The Chargers scored the first points of the game in the opening minute on a jumper by senior guard Kosta Kolovas but that was their only lead. Lockport hit 5 of 7 shots from the field to open the game, capped on a 3-pointer by junior guard Matas Deksnys (6 points) for a 13-6 lead with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
Lockport led 13-8 after one quarter and opened the second quarter with an 11-3 burst. That was capped on the third three-pointer of the first half by senior guard Jake Kaczmarek, who led the way with 12 points, and made the score 24-11 with 2:01 left in the second quarter. A rebound basket by DiCristofano in the waning seconds of the quarter gave the Porters a 29-15 halftime lead.
Kaczmarek, who took a charge in the win at Reavis earlier in the week that resulted in six stitches above his right eye, showed no ill effects from that. All his points came on 3-pointers as he sported a white headband that made him look like someone out of the 1980s.
"It was my first time ever wearing a headband," Kaczmarek said. "They had a box-and-one on Tommy [Ferriter], but once we started hitting our shots from the outside it opened up the shots down low. It was nice to have a comfortable win."
Ferriter hit a three-pointer for his only points of the game midway through the third quarter for a 41-17 lead.
Stagg had nine players score, but six of them had only two points apiece. Junior forward Austin Stone led the Chargers with six points and senior guard Troy Huddleston finished with five.
"They came in 2-4," Strus said of the Porters’ defense. "When you've had your heart broken that many times you come out and play with passion. That's what they did but it wasn't the result we wanted."
The Chargers opened the week with a 80-57 loss to visiting Bolingbrook. Huddleston led the scoring with 23 points and senior forward Jailin Thomas added nine points.
Stagg will be back in action at the Jack Tosh Holiday Classic at York beginning Thursday, Dec. 26 and will play Friday, Dec. 27, Saturday, Dec. 28 and Monday, Dec. 30.