EARLVILLE — Early in the second quarter of Friday night's Little Ten Conference game here between Somonauk and host Earlville, the visiting Bobcats looked to be in complete control, and coach Ron Hunt was liking what he was seeing with his team in the midst of an 8-0 run and leading 19-5.
The Red Raiders (7-9, 1-3) then started grabbing the momentum back, netting the next 12 points of the contest to close within two and trailed by just four at the intermission. However, Somonauk (9-9, 4-1) regrouped out of the locker room and opened the second half on a game-changing 12-2 run, which helped them eventually earn a 48-29 victory on a night where each club struggled to find the range from the field and free-throw line.
Somonauk forward Liam Roberts was one of the few players on each side who had little trouble putting the ball in the hoop. The junior was the only player in double figures in the contest, pouring in a game-high 24 points for half of his team's output. Roberts, who meshed 9 of 14 shots altogether, including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc, was perfect on all six of his attempts in the second half.
"I thought we did a pretty good job all night on the defensive end of the floor, but there in the second quarter on offense, shoot, we lost our minds," said Hunt. "We were up 19-5, and then suddenly we totally stopped doing all the things that had worked to get us that lead.
"When we do us, we are pretty good, but when we try to do and be somebody else, well, we aren't very good. That was the difference between before and after we had that 14-point lead in the first half."
Roberts and senior Nolan Wegener (12 rebounds) combined for 10 points, with Cameron Davis adding a triple to help the visitors to a 13-5 advantage after the opening eight minutes. A Roberts trey from the left corner and four points from Zach Olson pushed the margin to the aforementioned 19-5 count.
"We were cold. I really didn't think we were taking bad shots, and I just kept thinking for this being a home game for us I couldn't believe how much trouble we were having hitting shots," said Earlville coach Gerald Fruit. "We do shooting drills in here every practice, but we just had a tough night, and from the free-throw line (7 of 15) too."
Earlville, which finished the night an icy 25 percent for the floor, connected on five of six shots over the next five minutes. The spurt started with a drive by Brennon Sweeney, followed by a layup from Noah Lemke, drive from Tyler Bretsch (seven points, game-best 13 rebounds) and back-to-back 3-pointers by Dalton Gast and Sweeney to cut the lead to 19-17 with 37 seconds remaining. A pair of free tosses by Clifford Ciesielczyk with 23 seconds on the clock put SHS up 21-17 at the half.
"We knew they were going to come out in that 1-3-1 zone and practiced against it," said Fruit, "but we just didn't handle it the way I would have liked. We wanted to get the ball in the middle at the free-throw line, and then when they collapsed kick it to shooters or down on the block. We wanted to take advantage of our height. I thought we did all those things pretty well, but we just had a cold night shooting the ball inside and out.
"You're not going to win games shooting 25 percent."
Roberts opened the third quarter with a deep 3 from the corner and added another, plus a slicing drive in traffic to give his club a 33-19 lead with just over two minutes to go. The Bobcats held a 35-24 lead heading to the fourth and closed out the game on an 8-0 run, including Roberts' final two points of the game on a baseline drive.
"He plays all summer and the fall, and he was in the gym this morning at 6 o'clock working on his shot," Hunt said of Roberts. "He is a kid that is always working on his game, and he does that because he loves the game. The better he gets, it seems like the more he wants to work on it.
"That is a great thing for him and us."
Somonauk 48, Earlville 29
(Key: FG-FGA FT-FTA TP)
SOMONAUK (48) — Ciesielczyk 0-1 2-4 2, Davis 2-7 2-3 7, Roberts 9-14 2-2 24, Wegener 2-8 2-7 6, Hunt 1-1 0-0 2, Olson 2-3 1-3 5, Westbrook 0-1 0-0 0, Willette 0-0 0-0 0, Kenyon 0-1 0-0 0, Espinoza 0-0 2-2 2, Rushani 0-0 0-0 0, Gabrys 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-36 11-21 48.
EARLVILLE (29) — Larkin 1-8 0-0 2, Rico 1-5 0-0 2, Fitzgerald 1-2 2-2 4, Bretsch 3-8 1-6 7, B. Sweeney 2-8 1-2 6, D. Sweeney 0-2 0-0 0, Lemke 1-1 3-4 5, Gast 1-6 0-1 3. Totals 10-40 7-15 29.
Somonauk (9-9, 4-1) 13 8 14 13 — 48
Earlville (7-9, 1-3) 5 12 7 5 — 29
3-point goals — Somonauk 5-11 (Davis 1-3, Roberts 4-7, Kenyon 0-1); Earlville 2-20 (Larkin 0-5, Rico 0-4, B. Sweeney 1-4, D. Sweeney 0-1, Gast 1-6). Rebounds —Somonauk 29 (Wegener 12); Earlville 31 (Bretsch 13). Assists — Somonauk 10 (Ciesielczyk 5, Wegener 4); Earlville 5 (Larkin 3). Steals — Somonauk 7 (Ciesielczyk 2, Davis 2); Earlville 7 (B. Sweeney 2). Blocks — Somonauk 3 (Davis 1, Roberts 1, Espinoza 1); Earlville 3 (Bretsch 2). Turnovers — Somonauk 20, Earlville 24. Total fouls (fouled out) — Somonauk 16 (Davis); Earlville 19 (none).