MOUNT CARROLL – The most impressive part of Connor Saad’s stat line Wednesday night was a big, fat zero.
That’s the number of points the senior point guard from Erie allowed high-scoring East Dubuque guard Adam Lange in the Cardinals’ 43-19 victory in a West Carroll Holiday tournament pool play contest.
The 6-foot-2 Lange entered the game averaging 20 points. Lange attempted only two shots, both misses, and his teammates weren’t much better, a combined 7-for-37 from the floor.
“I was told to faceguard my guy,” Saad said of his defensive strategy against Lange, “so all the credit goes to my teammates who did a great job on help-side and guarding everybody else. I didn’t have to focus on anything else. I could just focus on my guy.”
Erie coach Ryan Winckler described his team’s overall defensive performance as “incredible.”
“We’ve been talking and I don’t know when we’ve seen a performance like that in a long time,” he said.
“That’s a good basketball team – they gave Eastland all that they could handle the other night. We wanted to put pressure on them but try to eliminate the penetration, because that’s what they’re so good at.”
Erie (7-4) scored the first 13 points of the game, with nine of those coming from senior guard Jacob Johnston. East Dubuque got to within 15-8 early in the second period, but it was all Cardinals the rest of the way.
Johnston finished with 15 points and five rebounds to lead Erie, while Rhett Stover finished with nine points, six rebounds and four steals. He also took a pair of charges in the third quarter to help thwart whatever East Dubuque comeback attempt may have been brewing.
The Cardinals are in line for a berth in the tournament’s championship game on Saturday, and a win over West Carroll on Friday would cement that opportunity.
Tyler Kraft scored six points for East Dubuque (7-2), while Alec Monahan and Craig Place added four. Warriors coach Eric Miller was impressed with Erie’s defense, but noted his team had to shoulder some of the blame as well.
“We just absolutely, 100 percent laid an egg,” Miller said. “Give Erie credit – they came out, played hard and jumped on us right away, and that took the mental edge to their side.”
Star of the game: Jacob Johnston, Erie, 15 points, 5 rebounds
Key performers: Rhett Stover, Erie, 9 points, 6 rebounds, 4 steals; Connor Saad, Erie, 8 points, 3 rebounds
Up next: West Carroll vs. Erie, 7:30 p.m. Friday, in Mount Carroll