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BY WILL LARKIN ASSISTANT SPORTS EDITOR firstname.lastname@example.org
MOUNT CARROLL - The Sauk Valley Rollers couldn't expect to match their home debut, in which they scored 162 points in front of the 316 curious fans at Milledgeville High School.
The Rollers' scoring declined Friday night, but they still defeated the St. Louis Stunners 118-98. The crowd was even better, with 405 paid customers who chose the ABA over high school ball.
"We're getting it done, and the fans are definitely getting it done," said Rollers coach Kenny Battle, whose team improved to 5-1 since moving from Hammond, Ind. "When you get this kind of support, it just makes you so happy."
Sauk Valley's starters gave the team an early lead, and the Rollers' bench put the game away. Four Rollers reserves scored in double figures to help their bench outscore St. Louis' 67-45.
"I like to utilize all 11 of my guys, and tonight was a perfect example," Battle said. "We're not the kind of team that depends on one guy. It could be a different one every night."
Backup guards Raymond Anthony and DaMarcus Ellis picked up where they left off in Milledgeville, pleasing the crowd with tape-measure 3-pointers and Ellis' monster slam dunks. Anthony made five 3-pointers on his way to 17 points, and Ellis' third-quarter jam over two Stunners had even his teammates covering their mouths in awe.
"Those guys just bring so much excitement," fellow reserve Geoff Wing said. "We can always count on them to pump the crowd up and pump us up too."
Wing closed the game with a sweet 10-second stretch in front of about 40 friends and family members. The Oregon grad hit a 25-footer with a minute left, and he stole the Stunners' inbounds pass and utilized the ABA's 3-D rule for a three-point layup.
"Man, that felt good," Wing said. "I really want to show everyone this isn't a joke. I can play with these guys, and I belong out here."
James Booyer scored 16 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. The forward is starting to feel comfortable in his new environment.
"This is like home for us now," said Booyer, who played his high school ball in Gary, Ind., before attending Black Hawk College and IUPUI in Indianapolis. "Getting this kind of support makes you play better. You just want to give it your all."