DIXON – From the jump, it was clear that the Telegraph boys listened to coach Ray Sharp’s advice ahead of the annual Sauk Valley Media All-Star Classic.
“He pretty much said either 3s or layups,” Amboy’s Jordan Hochstatter said. “Just open shots, and they were dropping.”
At the end of the third quarter, the Telegraph boys had as many points on 3s (45) as the Gazette side had total points. Dialing long distance lifted the Telegraph past the Gazette 73-67 on Thursday night at Sauk Valley Community College.
A 22-0 run from midway through the first quarter through the first 4 minutes of the second quarter also helped the Telegraph. They nailed six straight triples during the run, including three in a row from several feet beyond the arc by Newman grad Kyle Schmitt. A coast-to-coast traditional three-point-play by Myles Williams finally stopped the run, but not before the Telegraph led 41-20.
“It felt pretty good,” Schmitt said. “We kept moving the ball and finding open people. It seemed like we made 10 in a row. It was crazy.”
“It was pretty eye-opening,” Hochsttatter said of the run. “We didn’t expect much coming into this. At that point, we knew we could win it.”
However, the Gazette made a big push during the remainder of the second period. Garret Winfield teamed with former running mates Ryan and Reid Blackburn, Williams, and Dimitric Young to spur their side on a 14-1 run to close the first half down just 42-34. The quintet played to their strength of getting out in transition, as Williams slashed through the lane for 10 points and three steals in the quarter.
The halftime break couldn’t cool down the hot hands from the Telegraph, though. Game MVP Eli Leffelman hit two 3s as part of an 8-0 run, as the lead again stretched into the teens. An and-one by Young and a fast-break dunk by Reid Blackburn cut it to single digits down 54-45, but the Telegraph closed the quarter on a 9-0 run thanks to three straight trifectas from AFC’s Stephen Brooke, Hochstatter and Dixon’s David Whitcombe.
“We didn’t think we were going to do so hot coming in,” Schmitt admitted. “They had four guys going to play [basketball] in college, and we had one. We just found open guys and shot well. It was pretty cool.”
“We just played unselfish. We didn’t care who shot the ball, and that’s important in these All-Star games,” Sharp said. “Sometimes it gets to be 1-on-5.”
It looked as though the Telegraph side had been playing together for years the way they moved the ball around the perimeter. There weren’t any miscommunications or running into each other, just smooth, in-rhythm shots that found the bottom of the net.
“We weren’t really worried about any plays. We just wanted to have fun and gel together,” Leffelman said. “We’ve all played against each other for as long as we can remember. We knew how each other played, so we were just focused on coming together, and we did that.”
The Gazette side staged a furious rally down 18 with 2 minutes left. A 3 from Rock Falls’ Logan Pillars with 28.6 seconds left cut the deficit to 73-66, but the Telegraph inbounded successfully to seal the win.
“I never thought we had it until we got that final inbound,” Sharp said. They’re way too athletic. Myles [Williams] is a heck of a player. I knew they weren’t going to be quitting.”
Williams led all scorers with 21 points and five steals. The quickest and smallest player on the court did all he could to try to lead an epic comeback, but the effort fell just short.
“At the end of the day, these types of games are just about having fun,” Williams said. “I’m mad that we lost, because I don’t like to lose. But I’m going to look back probably 30 minutes from now and realize how much fun I had.”
Every Telegraph player scored, and eight of the nine made at least one 3. Leffelman stuffed stat sheet that included 13 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists. Hochstatter and Schmitt poured in 12 apiece thanks to three 3s each. AFC’s Joe Uphoff had all nine of his points off the bench in the first quarter to help the Telegraph out to a 24-17 advantage. Oregon’s Andrew Newman buried three 3s for his nine points.
2017 SVM Boys All-Star Classic
Telegraph 73, Gazette 67
Star of the game: Eli Leffelman, Telegraph, 13 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
Key performers: Myles Williams, Gazette, 21 points (9-for-11), 3 assists, 5 steals; Reid Blackburn, Gazette, 10 points (5-for-7), 2 blocks; Jordan Hochstatter, Telegraph, 12 points, 3 3s, 5 rebounds; Kyle Schmitt, Telegraph, 12 points, 3 3s, 4 rebounds