Balance has been Sturgis boys basketball coach Keith Kurowski’s buzzword lately, underscoring how the Trojans need some on the offensive end to complement senior Chance Stewart and junior Jack Scheske.
Sturgis didn’t get that Saturday night, but defense and rebounding made it a moot point in a 50-39 victory over Portage Northern in the A&K Printing Holiday Tournament championship.
Stewart banged his way to the foul line for 17 of his game-high 28 points and Scheske tallied 14 for Sturgis (4-2), which, with an effective 2-3 zone, handcuffed an athletic Huskies outfit to establish a 21-7 halftime lead.
Scheske picked up two quick fouls and sat the last couple minutes of the first quarter and the start of the second, but he made the most of his decreased minutes, giving the Trojans a 4-0 advantage and banging in a 3-pointer and making a stylish drive to the hoop in the third quarter to inflate the cushion to 26-7.
He and Stewart played a good chunk of the fourth quarter with four fouls, and Ryan Schuller fouled out at the beginning of the stanza. Still, even as P-Northern (4-2) began to find a rhythm, the Trojans didn’t give up much.
“Our defense kind of buckled down,” said Stewart, who collected 18 rebounds (16 defensive). “We got some key turnovers. Lonnie [Wright forced] some big turnovers. [Jacob] Cline created some turnovers and overall it was a great defensive effort. They’re going to make their run. In the first quarter they weren’t hitting shots. Eventually they’re going to start hitting shots. We just had to weather the storm.”
The Huskies went on a 13-3 tear to end the third quarter to make it a 10-point deficit with eight minutes to play. A Scheske reverse boosted the lead back up to 13 points and the Trojans took care of business at the free-throw line (21-for-28) to end the threat.
Stewart said he and Scheske talked about playing smart on defense to stay in the game, but that easing up wasn’t part of the plan.
“We like that aggressive defense,” he said. “I don’t get too caught up in that.”
Added Scheske: “It was a great game on the defensive end. We stopped their shooters and played well with fouls. I think it was a very good test. They were a fast, athletic team and I thought we did a good job stopping them.”
The Huskies were 11-for-40 (27.5 percent) from the floor and 0-for-10 from 3-point land. A 17-for-30 effort at the stripe didn’t help their cause. Daryn Snow led the team, which didn’t get many second opportunities with Sturgis cleaning the defensive glass 27 times, with 18 points.
Sturgis was 21-for-28 from the stripe, 13-for-36 from the field (36.1 percent) and grabbed 32 rebounds (27 on the defensive glass).
Tristen Stewart (one point) logged five rebounds, Jacob Cline finished with two points and three steals, Wright had three points and Schuller added two.
“That 2-3 right now has been killer for us,” Stewart said. “We’ve been in their face, rebounding good out of it and that 2-3 definitely has been huge for us. It was just a great win to get us going. It was a physical basketball game and that’s how the next couple games are going to be. It was a great way for us to go out there and show that we can play that kind of basketball. We’ll keep getting after it.”