ROMEOVILLE – After winning their own Thanksgiving tournament with victories in each of their four games by an average of 25 points, Joliet West boys basketball coach Jeremy Kreiger didn’t need to explain to his team that things would be different in Tuesday’s first Southwest Prairie Conference East Division game at Romeoville.
Although the Spartans went 2-2 at the WJOL Thanksgiving Classic, they came in determined to halt a two-game losing streak, while looking to hand the Tigers their first loss while getting off to a strong start in the conference.
On a night where West’s Jamere Hill, who averaged 20 points a game and was the the MVP of the Tigers’ tournament, was limited to one field goal and four points with foul trouble, others had to step up, and that’s just what happened.
West grabbed a 39-27 halftime lead and managed to maintain control in the second half, where they scored 21 points and were good enough to claim a 60-49 victory over Romeoville.
Leading the way for the Tigers (5-0) was Ashawn Burbridge, who scored 10 points in the first half and finished with a team high 14 points. Tre’Vonta Hall scored all 11 of his points in the first half and Jaiden Lee had 11 points and six rebounds.
“As a staff we’re very happy,” Kreiger said. “Before the game the biggest thing we talked about was that this was their first road game as a unit and their first conference game, and I wanted them to understand that we may have adversity during the game. That’s why we believe in building our program through defense, because on nights when shots aren’t falling and you’re not making free throws, our defense held them, and that was the difference in the game.
“I think early tests like this prepare us for late in the conference season and for our goals of winning a regional championship and playing for a sectional championship. The biggest thing, why I’m so proud of these young men is resiliency.”
A 9-0 run in the second quarter put the Tigers ahead for good at 29-21 and with Hall making three 3-pointers in that quarter, West built a 39-25 lead late in the half.
Both teams struggled in the third quarter as the Spartans (2-3) outscored West, 6-4, to close to within 43-33 heading into the fourth quarter. With Destin Whitaker (16 points) and Keedan Foster (11 points) leading the way, Romeoville got as close as 49-44 with 2:52 left before the Tigers began to build a safer advantage.
“Our main focus coming in was defense, and as long as we did that it was good,” Burbridge said. “Our main scorer got in foul trouble, so I had to step up.”
Other top performers for the Tigers were Trent Howland (eight rebounds), Dakhari Jaudon (nine rebounds) and Jeremy Fears Jr., who each scored six points. Also contributing for the Spartans were Dakoda Joachim (nine points) and Diego Durr (eight points).