DIXON – Once the Sauk Valley men’s basketball team kicks into high gear, 52 points might be a good halftime total.
In the opener on Friday night, however, that’s all the Skyhawks could muster in a 57-52 loss to Prairie State in the second game of the 21st annual Sauk Valley Classic. The St. Ambrose jayvee topped Milwaukee Tech 62-55 in the opener.
Sauk Valley (0-1) struggled to put the ball in the basket all night, hitting just 21 of 56 from the field and 6 of 13 from the free-throw line. They also had two free throws nullified due to lane violations, and turned the ball over 28 times.
“We’ve just got to get a little tougher,” Sauk Valley coach Russ Damhoff said. “We can’t execute right now. There’s a little lack of discipline – we call our own number a little bit sometimes.”
Sauk Valley seized a 30-23 lead when Magd Owayed hit a 3-pointer 4 minutes into the second half, but Prairie State (1-0) came back with a 15-2 run over the next 3 1/2 minutes to seize control. Sophomore forward DeMarques Heard hit three of five 3-point baskets during that stretch, and the Pioneers didn’t trail the rest of the way.
Heard missed the front end of a pair of 1-and-1 free throws in the final minute, giving Sauk Valley a glimmer of hope. Carlos Hendrix and Groharing hit threes in the final 7.7 seconds to get the Skyhawks within 55-52, but a pair of free throws by Prairie State’s Geray Bagby with 1.6 seconds remaining sealed the deal.
Heard led all scorers with 25 points, while reserve forward Tommy Green chipped in with 13. Prairie State coach Mike Manderino, who guided two high schools (St. Martin de Porres and Chicago Leo) to the IHSA state tournament during his days as a prep coach, saw some good things from his club, but realized they are far from a finished product.
“You can see we potentially have some athletes,” Manderino said, “and if we play together as a team, I think we could be all right. Right now, it’s just so helter skelter. We haven’t worked against a zone, and they played primarily a zone the whole game. Our attack was so disorganized.
“We were fortunate DeMarques hit a few jump shots, but we’re going to need more than that.”
Heard connected on half of his 10 3-point attempts, but Damhoff was generally pleased with the defense that allowed just 57 points.
“I think we’re still learning our zone, so we’re more worried about what we’re doing than where they’re at,” Damhoff said. “I thought real late we took [Heard] away pretty good, but we didn’t do that soon enough.”
Daven Ottley picked up three fouls in the first 10 minutes of play, but was foul-free the rest of the way. He led Sauk with 15 points. Groharing was next with eight points, while Owayed added 11 rebounds and seven points.
“The little things like sharp cuts, being strong with the ball and making good passes are what we need to work on,” Groharing said. “We got a good learning experience tonight, and we’ll get better tomorrow.”
Star of the game: DeMarques Heard, Prairie State, 25 points, 5 rebounds
Key performers: Daven Ottley Sauk 15 points, 6 rebounds; Tommy Green, Prairie State, 13 points, 5 rebounds
Up next: Milwaukee Tech at SVCC, 7:30 p.m. Saturday