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Armoska, Fritsch join forces at Sauk

Rocket, Warrior working together

Rock Falls and Sterling are bitter, age-old rivals. But, Rock Falls High School graduate Steven Armoska and Sterling graduate Chris Fritsch are not.

Armoska and Fritsch, the last two Sauk Valley Media boys players of the year, battled as opponents in high school. They're now Sauk Valley Community College teammates.

The two have known each other for quite some time, going back to pick-up games at Sterling's Propheter Park.

"I'm best friends with his cousin [Dylan Stingley], so I've known Steven for a while," said Fritsch, a sophomore. "Me and him really haven't had that rival thing."

So much so that Fritsch gave then-high school junior Armoska some advice after Fritsch and company defeated Rock Falls in the postseason.

"My senior year, when we beat them in the regional, I told him to keep his head up, because he had 1 more year," Fritsch said.

Armoska and Fritsch are still competing against each other, as both are vying for time at the Skyhawks power forward spot.

"He's got the spot right now. I'm trying to work my way up," said Armoska, a freshman.

Armoska is having to make the adjustment to the college game that Fritsch had to make last season. They were used to being "the man" in high school, and are now among more talented players.

"I'm dealing with that now," Armoska said. "I'm not used to it at all. I'm used to taking 35 shots a game. Eventually, I'll get there."

The 6-foot-5 Fritsch and 6-4 Armoska are similar players, but there are certainly differences.

"He's a better dunker," Fritsch admitted. "I would say my offensive game is a little better, but his is there too."

Coach Russ Damhoff, who is entering his 28th season, is happy to have both Armoska and Fritsch in the fold.

"I think it's a big year for Chris," Damhoff said. "He struggled a little bit last year making the adjustment. This year, we're expecting him to give us some really good play.

"Steven's coming in the same place Chris was coming in a year ago. He's trying to make the adjustment. It's good to have those two."

Fritsch is one of six returning sophomores. The others are guards Carlos Hendrix and Eric Naples, forwards Jacob Fisher and John Murphy, and center David Newton.

Fisher and Hendrix are the Skyhawks' co-captains. Sauk must replace All-American shooting guard Jalen Riley, who is now at NCAA Division I East Tennessee State, and powerful center Daven Ottley among others.

"There's probably not going to be another Jalen, but there's a lot of people who can score on this team too," said Hendrix, the lone returning starter at point guard. "I think we'll be deeper this year."

Fisher did not play much last year but is ready to seize his opportunity. He thinks many of his teammates will do the same.

"One of our strengths right now is our chemistry," Fisher said. "You could tell it was there in our jamborees."

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