LOCKPORT – When a basketball team already has as many victories as they had all of last season and they haven’t even competed in their holiday tournament, there obviously is good reason to be upbeat about what they might accomplish.
That’s just how Lockport views its position after getting off to a 7-2 start and winning seven of its last eight games after a 65-40 nonconference win over Reavis. It’s the second game that the Porters have won at historic Central Gym in the past three days.
“It was definitely a team effort,” Porters coach Brett Hespell said. “Ten different guys scored and almost everybody rebounded, which is good since that was a physical team. We knew that would be a challenge, and we responded. Early we were unfocused, since sometimes it’s weird playing on Mondays, and we had a bigger game on Saturday. But with the shots we were getting, I knew that we would score points. We just had to tighten our defense a bit and once we did, we held them to six points in the second quarter.
“Earlier in the year we had some chances where we got double-digit leads, and then we got a little bit lackadaisical, so it was nice that we’ve responded by building on some of those leads and then continuing to push that. I think there is a lot of confidence, and you see that when a guy like John (Vassilakis) comes off the bench and leads us in scoring.”
After getting off to a slow start in which the Rams took a 12-9 lead late in the first quarter, Lockport responded and moved in front for good, taking a 19-14 lead after the first quarter and then going on a 20-2 run to grab a 29-14 lead midway through the second quarter.
Matt Hatzopoulos (14 points) hit a 3-pointer, Jacob Karli (eight points) added a 3-point play and John Vassilakis (15 points) and Quinn Gardner (six points) added baskets to close out the first quarter.
“We all play for each other and on any given night, anyone can lead the team in scoring,” Hatzopoulos said. “I don’t think that anyone cares who scores the most as long as we win. We started the game a little slow, but once the game kept going and we got into it and everyone on the whole bench contributed since our team is pretty deep. I like that we all genuinely like each other, and it’s like a family feel. When you like each other, you’re going to play for each other, and that usually results in wins.”
The Porters continued their domination in the second quarter by getting two free throws from Vassilakis, 3-pointers from Tim DiCristofano (six points) and Karli and a layup from Blake Sartin to build a 15-point lead and they extended it to 38-20 at halftime.
“I was just confident to shoot, and my coach told me that when I was open to shoot, and that’s what I did,” Vassilakis said. “We all play hard together and like playing together, and it’s fun to watch. We’re going to keep giving it all that we’ve got every single day in practice.”
Lockport led 54-25 late in the third quarter and took a big lead into the final quarter. The Rams, who were led by Moe Hassam (13 points) and Kareem Hajjar (11 points) continued to battle through the fourth quarter to avoid a running clock.
The Porters now prepare for their annual trip to the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, which runs from Dec. 27 to 29. Lockport is the invited school that has made the most appearances in a tournament that’s long been seen as one of the best in Illinois.