South Elgin took a couple of extra minutes coming out of its locker room Friday at St. Charles East's 61st annual Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament, and for good reason.
For the first time this year the Storm had a victory to celebrate.
John Aaron Wafford knocked down a 3-pointer from the left corner with 56 seconds remaining, breaking a 51-51 tie in what became a 56-55 win over Hampshire in a tight game throughout.
Turnovers plagued the Storm (1-2) in a one-point loss to Proviso East and a lopsided loss to St. Charles East, but they limited the mistakes to 11 Friday.
"We're a young team so were just improving every game, said Lane McVicar, one of three sophomores in South Elgin's starting lineup. "This shows us what we are capable of. We really focused on ball movement today and getting everyone the ball."
Hampshire (0-3) will play Plainfield East (1-2) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the seventh-place game. The Storm follow at 4 p.m. in the fifth-place game against St. Joseph (1-2).
Wafford, a junior, led South Elgin with 15 points with those three sophomores, Drew Cwik, McVicar and Kendis Wiley, right behind at 11, 10 and 10, respectively. McVicar also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and had two steals.
South Elgin coach Brett Johnson is looking to guards Cwik, Wafford and McVicar to create much of the offense.
"Those three guys hit shots when they had to hit shots, and we got defensive stops when it mattered the most," Johnson said. "The first three games we've got better all three games, and that's all a coach can ask for. They should all be able to create opportunities for others to score."
South Elgin led almost the entire first half, its biggest coming at 22-15 on a Wafford 3-point shot. Hampshire fought back within 24-23 at halftime when Nicholas Erickson made all three free throws after being fouled behind the arc, Jackson Milison drove for an offhand lay-in, and Collin Woods grabbed a defensive board and took it end-to-end for a layup.
The Storm pushed their lead to 36-27 in the third only to see the Whips come back again, this time a 12-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to go up, 39-36, a surge that began with back-to-back 3s from Erickson.
Erickson's two free throws with 5:13 remaining put the Whips up for the final time at 45-44. After they fell behind, 51-47, they came back to tie at 51 when Jeremy Rosa made two free throws and Woods drove for a basket.
Cwik penetrated and kicked out to Wafford for the go-ahead 3-pointer. McVicar's two free throws made it 56-53 with 23 seconds to go, and the Storm fouled Woods with seven seconds left so the Whips couldn't try a tying 3.
Woods made both free throws to get within 56-55, and the Storm missed a pair with 4.6 seconds left. Hampshire grabbed the rebound and called timeout, but with only 2.2 seconds to go were only able to get off a desperation heave that hit hard off the backboard.
"We have to play a little smarter down the stretch," Whips coach Mike Featherly said. "Understanding the game and execution down the stretch."
Woods (16 points, five rebounds), Erickson (12 points, seven rebounds, three steals) and Rosa (10 points) all hit double figures for the Whips. Hampshire outrebounded South Elgin, 25-20, and made 22 of 26 free throws but shot 41.6% from the field to South Elgin's 47.3%. The Storm also made four more 3-point baskets.
"I'm proud of the fight and the battle," Johnson said. "Its a very young team. Winning a game like this is a big confidence builder for this group because its hard when you are playing juniors and sophomores and the pace of the game is very different. It's a challenge."