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Batavia's Mike Carlson beats Elgin's Kiko Mari to a rebound Tuesday in Batavia. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Senior guard Mike Rueffer hit the game-winning layup with 3.2 seconds to play as Batavia came from behind to top visiting Elgin 55-54 on Tuesday night in Upstate Eight River action.
The Maroons held their biggest lead of the game late in the third quarter when they went up 43-33, but the Bulldogs put together an 8-0 run and the teams traded baskets the rest of the way to set up an exciting finish.
With Elgin (9-8, 1-5) clinging to a 54-51 lead with under a minute to play, Rueffer pulled up for what would have been the game-tying three-pointer but missed. Zach Strittmatter was there to pull down the offensive rebound though, and he put it back up and in to make the score 54-53.
“We set up a play to get the three, and we were just crashing the boards and staying alert and I was in the right place at the right time on that one,” said Strittmatter.
The Bulldogs fouled on the subsequent Maroons possession, sending Eric Sedlack to the line for two, but he missed both attempts before the Bulldogs called a timeout to set up their final play.
The drawn-up play was supposed to go to Micah Coffey, but with Arie Williams denying him the ball it wound up in Rueffer’s hands, and he redeemed his earlier miss with what wound up being the game-winner as the Maroons were unable to get up a final shot attempt.
“We were going to run another play but they were really crowding Micah, so we just cleared out a side for Mike and he would gladly accept that challenge each and every time,” said Batavia coach Jim Nazos.
Added Rueffer: “That was a rough shot on the three-point attempt and I knew as soon as I shot it, but luckily Zach was there to get the rebound and then we got a chance to win it at the end.”
Batavia (9-8, 3-4) was coming off a pair of 20-plus point victories in the past 10 days, but for Elgin it was the first game since losing to rival Larkin in the championship game of the Elgin Holiday Tournament back on December 29.
“The loss had nothing to do with the layoff,” said Elgin coach Mike Sitter. “We were fresh, we had a chance to fine-tune things, and we looked sharp offensively all night. It’s just a matter of free throws and defensive stops down the stretch.”
Elgin did look sharp on the offensive end, shooting 18-of-42 from the field, including 9-of-17 from beyond the arc.
Once again it was Williams who carried the offensive load for Elgin, as he scored a game-high 32 points and hit on 7-of-9 attempts from beyond the arc.
Williams picked up his fourth foul with 45 seconds to go in the third quarter but remainedin the game the rest of the way. However, he went without a field goal in the fourth quarter, hitting 5-of-6 from the free-throw line.
Williams was the only one hitting free throws in the final quarter for Elgin, though, as the rest of the team went 2-of-7 from the line down the stretch for what proved to be the difference.
On the other side, Batavia did a nice job spreading the ball around on offense as Strittmatter led the way with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Coffey had 12 points and was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc. Jake Pollack added 10 points and Rueffer finished with nine.
Batavia (9-8, 3-4)
Pollack 4 0-0 10, Rueffer 4 1-1 9, Coffey 4 0-0 12, Strittmatter 6 4-9 16, Horton 4 0-0 8, Totals 22 5-10 55.