ST. ELMO —
It would have taken a tremendous effort to outshine the constant whistles, fouls and shouts of displeasure from the stands Friday night at St. Elmo, as the Eagles shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter alone.
Yet that's exactly what junior guard Levi Maxey did, scoring 27 of his 36 points in the second half to lift St. Elmo to a 58-49 victory over Altamont.
"They really played tenacious defense," Maxey said. "I was just trying to take every open shot I could."
Even when he wasn't open, it seemed, Maxey would connect on about everything he tossed at the rim. The 5-11 guard buried six three-pointers in the contest, including three in a five minute stretch in the second half that turned the tide for St. Elmo.
Trailing 33-28 with two minutes to play in the third, Maxey connected on a step-back three to bring the Eagles within two. After forcing a turnover, Maxey would travel the length of the court for a tough runner to knot the game at 33.
Perhaps his biggest moment came at the start of the fourth quarter, after Altamont slipped ahead 36-35. Maxey, from the right wing, stepped into his shot on a deep three-ball that touched nothing but the bottom of the net to pull St. Elmo ahead by two. One trip later, Maxey delivered yet another three-pointer from almost the exact same spot, and the St. Elmo stands were rocking.
"We ran some sets for him," Eagles' coach Greg Feezel said. "But it's not just that. He was ready to shoot when he was open."
With a 41-36 lead and four minutes to play, it was the officials that stole the show during the game's home stretch. Altamont coach John Niebrugge was given a technical for arguing a call, and an unidentified Indians player received his own technical two possessions later for challenging the call on a foul. Suddenly, the game came down to the free-throw line.
"I told our guys to adjust to how the game is being called," Feezel said. "No matter what, don't worry about all the other stuff."
Garrett Bartels hit three of his four attempts at the line following one of the technical fouls and accompanying personal, and Maxey was fouled immediately after when St. Elmo was awarded possession leading 52-45.
Like he had been all game, Maxey was clutch down the stretch, hitting the first two from the line to make it a 54-45 game. St. Elmo connected on seventeen shots from the charity stripe to put the game on ice.
Bartels and Connor Beasley each scored eight points for St. Elmo to add to Maxey's big night, and Reece Wells rounded our the Eagles' scoring with his six-point effort.
For Altamont, it was a story of turnovers and the tough defense of St. Elmo's Ben Davis. With Davis face-guarding Altamont's Garrett Ziegler all over the court, the Indians struggled to run their offensive sets. Altamont turned the ball over 12 times in the second half, a testament to the intensity of Feezel's defense.
"Ziegler is a very fine player," Feezel said. "I thought Ben did a good job on him, it takes a lot of effort to control him."
Ziegler finished with a team-high 16 points on the night, six of which came in the final minutes as Altamont attempted a late rally. Ryan Mayhaus added eight points for the Indians, who fall to 17-7 after the defeat. Altamont returns to action on Tuesday when they travel to St. Anthony.
The win improves St. Elmo's record to 15-10, including a 2-0 record over the Indians. St. Elmo also bested Altamont on Dec. 15 in the St. Elmo Holiday Tournament, when Maxey again went off for 33 points. The Eagles play Tuesday at Noble.
Altamont 12 13 8 16 - 49
St. Elmo 14 4 15 25 - 58
Altamont-Ziegler 16, Mayhaus 8, Kuhns 7, Hill 6, Borders 5, Goeckner 4, Jahraus 2, McGinnis 1.
St. Elmo-Maxey 36, Bartels 8, Beasley 8, Wells 6.