WOODSTOCK – Marian Central’s Ephraim Lee would much rather have been playing in Saturday’s Class 5A state football championship than playing basketball at the Woodstock North Hoops for Healing tournament.
The quick transition from the Hurricanes’ heart-breaking football playoff loss against Montini to the basketball season has taken some time for the junior.
“Going from football mode to basketball mode is a big transition. I don’t get to carry the ball. I have to actually dribble,” Lee joked.
It’s taken about two weeks to get fully prepared, but Lee came into basketball form Saturday.
Playing tough defense and with hard-nosed rebounds and putbacks, Lee helped key a 15-3 run to help close the fourth quarter and Marian’s first win, 53-47 over Round Lake.
Lee scored nine points during that fourth-quarter run.
“Our defense played really well,” Lee said. “We got some turnovers which turned into easy buckets for us. That’s how everyone got involved and that’s how we won the game.”
With Marian trailing, 44-38, with a little less than five minutes left in the game, Lee started the comeback with a layup-and-one. He then stole a pass for an easy layup to make it 44-43. Matt Yuk connected on two free throws to give the Hurricanes a 45-44 lead.
Lee followed with a rebound and layup to give Marian (1-3) a 47-44 lead. Round Lake tied it with a three but another rebound and put-back by Lee gave the Hurricanes a lead for good.
Lee did not start the game but started the second half. Coach Curtis Price called Lee his best athlete and expects to have him in the starting lineup soon.
“I think in the second half he got his basketball legs back,” Price said. “He’s going to be a big key for us. Hopefully I don’t wear him out because I’m going to use him a lot.”
The Hurricanes made a concerted effort to go back into the post to start the game and junior center J.J. Lindquist benefited with a game-high 15 points, going 7 of 10 at the free-throw line.
“We all wanted to work it inside and that’s a point of our offense,” Lindquish said. “But at the end of the game in the second half it was all about our defense.”
Yuk added 11 points off the bench, and Derreck Caldez finished with seven points.
That defensive mantra is going to continue to be preached by Price. Although the Hurricanes are without injured forward Tommy Waytula for a few more weeks, the Hurricanes were happy to use the tournament to figure out who they are.
Price praised the Hurricanes’ last two games in particular.
“I thought our best effort was yesterday,” Price, referencing Marian Central’s 62-53 double overtime loss to Cary-Grove on Friday, said. “It’s good to win. I think we have to help our guys understand that we have to play great defense and that will help out our shots.”
Belvidere 54, Woodstock North 39: The Thunder put together a 9-0 run over the end of the second quarter and the start of the third to pull within three at 24-21.
However, Woodstock North (1-4) was plagued by missed shots all evening before falling in the second half.
Thunder coach Steve Ryan said his team was getting good looks, except nothing was falling.
“We got the shots that we wanted tonight,” Ryan said. “I thought we came in with a lot more intensity tonight and played more as a team. But we’ve got to start making a lot more shots.”
Ryan said that his team needs to get to 50 points most nights in order to have a chance to win, which the Thunder did only once in the four-game tournament.
Senior guard Steven Whiting seemed to be the only viable offensive option for the Thunder, as he tallied 14 points.