FRANKFORT – Lockport was coming off Friday night’s stunning 70-60 victory over Bolingbrook.
Lincoln-Way East was coming off a tough 47-44 loss at Homewood-Flossmoor.
The tea leaves suggested the Porters’ Southwest Suburban Blue battle Tuesday night at East could be a dandy.
It never developed that way, however.
Much the same as they had done when they visited the Porters and posted a 64-46 victory back on Jan. 5, the Griffins opened the game with hot shooting, jumped to a sizable lead and coasted to a 60-35 triumph.
“Every game our goal is to start out strong, get ’em [opponents] down and make ‘em quit,” East 6-foot-6 senior guard Sam Shafer said. “After they beat Bolingbrook, we thought they might change how they play us, but they played us the same as a month ago.”
In fairness to the Porters, they were without one of their best and most important players as junior guard Jake Karli was out sick.
“We did not play hard enough tonight, for whatever reason,” Lockport coach Brett Hespell said. “That team [Griffins] is too good and too well coached to come out like that. Maybe it was because Jake [Karli] was sick, but that’s an excuse, and there are no excuses.
“It was lesson learned.”
East got out to a 12-3 lead with 4 minutes 39 seconds left in the opening quarter. Lockport (7-13, 1-6) closed to within 14-11 as junior guard Matt Hatzopoulos, a hero in the victory over Bolingbrook, hit his third 3-pointer at the 2:30 mark.
From that point, however, the Griffins (18-4, 5-2) pulled away. An 11-0 run in the second quarter made it 38-19, and coach Rich Kolimas’ team was up at halftime, 47-23. It never got closer than 50-29 in the second half.
“They’re a difficult matchup for us from our zone [defense] because of how well they shoot the ball,” Hespell said.
East, which made 13 of its first 17 shots in the first game against the Porters, connected at a 63 percent clip on 17 of 27 in the opening half Tuesday. Shafer had 14 points in the first quarter, 16 in the first 10 minutes and finished with 18.
“We’re a very resilient team,” Shafer said of rebounding from the loss to H-F. “We lose one, and that just makes us more hungry. We played good defense tonight, and the better we play defense, the more it makes our offense go.”
Griffins senior guard Joey Buggemi chipped in 13 points and cashed in on several fast-break opportunities.
“We like to get out and run,” Buggemi said. “Zach [Parduhn, his runningmate at guard] did a good job looking up and finding me.
“This was a huge win for us. They came in here with a lot of momentum after they beat Bolingbrook. We wanted to come out hot. We feel that if we play our game and start out hot early, we can play with anyone.”
Brandon Petkoff chipped in 10 points and sophomore Nate Seputis nine for East. They combined to hit 8 of 12 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
Hatzopoulos finished with 18 points for Lockport, including 4 of 7 from beyond the arc. But no other Porter scored more than five points. The Griffins limited Lockport to .255 shooting on 12 of 47 and also forced 22 turnovers.
“This might have been a situation where their kids wanted to get to a high point, they got it [with the win over Bolingbrook] and tonight they had a little letdown,” Kolimas said. “They didn’t have Karli, one of their best players, and that hurt them.
“They beat Bolingbrook. That got my attention.”
East has two games remaining before online seeding is conducted for the Class 4A Romeoville Sectional. The Griffins will play Sandburg on Friday night and will face Westinghouse in the shootout at H-F on Saturday.
“I’ll say this,” Kolimas said, hinting the Griffins can make a strong case for the No. 1 seed in a sectional that includes Bolingbrook, Joliet Central, Romeoville and West Aurora. “We’re 18-4, we have not lost to a team in the sectional, and we beat Bolingbrook and Joliet Central. They say the first criteria is head to head, so ...”
“We had a motto coming into this game, three for one,” Shafer said. “Now it’s two for one. Win two more, and get the No. 1 seed.”
“Coach has been big all year on the seeding,” Buggemi said. “We have to take every game seriously and keep winning.”