ERIE, Ill. — There was plenty of time for Josh Hutton to spend with family on Christmas Day. Wednesday — the day after Christmas — was for basketball.
In fact, all 12 teams at the Warkins Cardinal Classic boys basketball tournament at Erie High School put in double duty.
“Basketball time is now,” said Hutton, who spent Christmas Day in Maquoketa, Iowa, where both his grandmothers live only a few blocks apart.
As if there isn’t enough stress playing twice the day after Christmas, Hutton and his Orion teammates had to dig their way from an 11-point deficit in the second half to beat Stockton 51-47 in their second game. It came about 2 hours after the Chargers (10-1) beat ROWVA 70-39 in their first game of the day.
“Getting down double digits in the second half and fighting back — that’s a big win for us,” Hutton said.
Stockton built a 37-26 lead in the third quarter when Brock Hawley started and ended an 8-0 run with 3-point baskets. But the Blackhawks’ top two scorers — Seth Carroll (13 points) and Dustin Broshous (11) — were plagued with foul trouble, and the Chargers rallied. They went ahead to stay at 42-40 when Hutton found Colie Bolhous (11 points) open on the left wing for a 3-point basket with 6 minutes remaining.
“Our team is really unselfish,” said Hutton, who finished with 17 points after scoring 12 in the opener. “We just want wins. He made a nice move and made a nice basket.”
Orion coach Brent Hutton said the Chargers benefited from being put to the test.
“To have to fight through some things is good,” he said. “We were tired, and we fought through that. It’s tough to play with a one-game break (Orion’s games began at 3 p.m. and
6 p.m.). We warmed up like we had tired legs. But it builds conditioning, and it builds tenacity.”
Neither coaches nor players seemed to mind having a short Christmas break, either.
“I love this tournament,” said Riverdale coach Brent Carmichael, whose team beat Peoria Heights 39-35 in a 10:30 a.m. game and then lost 52-34 to Eastland at 4:30 p.m. “We get to play some quality opponents close to home. It gets you tuned up for your conference games. You find out which eight or nine players are going to take you to the promised land.”
Playing two games the first day also reveals players’ mental and physical makeup.
“Definitely, in the second half (of the second game), I was dragging a lot,” ROWVA 6-foot-4 junior center Ben Olsen said. “I’ve played doubleheaders in baseball, but this is my first doubleheader in basketball. As tough as Orion and Eastland (the teams that beat the 2-8 Tigers) are, it was tough on me. The mental toughness is biggest thing.”
ROWVA coach Jason Danner said he saw that from his team.
“I don’t think the kids were ready for what they faced,” he said. “I think the minds go first, then the legs.”
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But some coaches were impressed by the way their teams played.
“Anytime the kids aren’t in school it takes an edge off,” said Morrison coach Dale Trott, whose team beat Warren 66-23 and Annawan 72-52. “We just play better when we have something going.”
But Trott had to admit that the Mustangs (9-5) played pretty well Wednesday. They took Saturday and Sunday off, had a short practice Monday and were off Christmas Day. The second win, against Annawan, came against a team with a 7-3 record.
“We kind of got to their legs with our depth,” Trott said.
“We got outhustled and outworked,” Annawan coach Ryan Brown said. “As soon as that team came alive and busted us in the mouth, we didn’t have a response. We’ll see what we’re made of tomorrow.”
With 30 games in four days, all 12 teams should know what they’re made of by the time Christmas week is over.