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Boys Basketball: South Elgin embraces fast-paced offense

In South Elgin’s new uptempo offense guard Darius Wells (left) has made 33 three-pointers hitting 41 percent from beyond arc.

In South Elgin’s new uptempo offense, guard Darius Wells (left) has made 33 three-pointers, hitting 41 percent from beyond the arc. | Sun-Times Media File

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Storm on the horizon


Matt Smith 17.9 26 4.3

Matt McClure 15.6 26 3.3

Darius Wells 12.6 33 3.7

Tyler Hankins 6.9 0 5.9

Justin Howard 5.5 14 0.9

Jake Amrhein 4.4 5 4.5

Updated: February 10, 2014 10:53AM

If South Elgin coach Matt Petersen is a tough sell, he has his reasons.

After six wins in the last seven and five straight, it would appear the 9-6 Storm has turned a corner in his first year as head coach.

“A coaching friend of mine said it’s good that we’ve made progress and are winning over average-to-good teams already, and I guess that’s true,” Petersen said. “But what we’re about is to be able to be competing with great teams.

“And I still don’t see us able to do it, which is our goal. We tend to play with those teams for a while and then back down once they hit us with a run. We did that with Larkin, with Fremd, some others.”

Considering the drastic change the Storm made, beating average to above-average teams is beyond what could have probably been expected at this point.

The difference between the styles Petersen wants the Storm playing and that of former coach Chaz Taft is night and day. Instead of playing games in the 30s and 40s, South Elgin is averaging 72.7 points per game now, and Petersen wants more.

The up-tempo style on offense and a defense that forces the issue with trapping designed to lead to more offense is not exactly conservative. Although there are many ways to play basketball, and South Elgin had good success under Taft, there’s no doubt players enjoy the new style.

“It’s crazy how he wants us to run a fast-paced offense and push everything to the basket, then pressure and force turnovers,” said senior guard Darius Wells. “I love it. It’s more my style of offense.

“I’d rather have 70-point wins instead of playing in the 30s. It’s really not fun to pass the ball on the perimeter 10 times before you take a shot. We can come down and shoot after one pass, as long as it’s in rhythm.”

So far the change has meant a team-high 33 three-pointers in 80 tries for Wells (41 percent), and 44 percent three-point shooting for teammate Matt McClure (26-of-59).

And sophomore Matt Smith is scoring at a team-high 17.9-point average with McClure averaging 15.3.

“What I see with us is a tendency to revert back to what we know from the past when the pressure is on, and that’s to hold back,” Petersen said. “It’s too passive, I guess is the word.

“Defensively, we’re playing better half-court defense, but I’m going nuts because I want to have them shoot, get a steal or force them into a mistake and be back up the court now.”

Petersen said he didn’t see this in an impressive 69-58 Upstate Eight crossover win over Batavia Saturday.

“Really, we should beat teams worse than we have when we won, even in the Batavia game,” he said. “Any time we have a comfortable lead we revert back to the old way and slow down and it makes us play worse.”

Wells acknowledged the problems. In particular the 68-50 loss to rival Bartlett still eats at them.

“They came out and were more aggressive than us,” Wells said. “They wanted it more and we didn’t come out ready to play. I think that since that point our energy has been better.”

If the team isn’t yet where they can be, Wells thinks it’s more a result of their overall youth.

“We’re just really young,” he said. “We’re learning to face adversity. We were down 16 in the fourth quarter against Cary-Grove, but we were able to come back (83-80 overtime win).

“It gave us confidence that even though teams do go on runs, it doesn’t mean the game is over.”

With the leading scorer, Smith, a sophomore, leading rebounder Tyler Hankins (5.9 rebounds a game) also a sophomore, and other key contributors like Justin Howard (5.5 ppg), Julian Lynch (3.9 ppg) and Jake Amrhein (4.4 ppg) also sophs, it’s a team with plenty of time to adapt to the new way of doing things.

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