Blazers make strides at Thanksgiving tourney
WEST CHICAGO – It was a wacky opening week for Addison Trail's boys basketball team.
The Blazers had two games go down to the buzzer and also had a comeback from a 15-point halftime deficit in the first five games of the season, which all took place at the West Chicago Thanksgiving tournament.
AT left with a 2-3 record despite holding fourth-quarter leads in each of the five games. The results showed that the Blazers can play with most every team they face, but they have some work to do to close out more games.
"Looking back on it, we were in each game," AT coach Brendan Lyons said. "[A record of] 2-3 isn't where we want to be, but our confidence level and understanding of how good we can be is good."
After losing to the host Wildcats 74-67 in the opener, AT came back from 40-25 down at halftime against Marmion and rallied for an 88-84 win. The Blazers shot 45 free throws in that game, making 35.
Lyons said the higher-scoring games are a result of AT pushing the tempo and shooting well from the outside. The new, tighter officiating rules had an impact on the first two games, but it wasn't as noticeable in the last three games, according to the coach.
"We do see us getting up and down [the floor] as beneficial to us against most teams on our schedule," Lyons said. "I think we shot the ball very well from the perimeter and we have three or four guys that can knock down the three."
Senior point guard James Pupillo led the Blazers with 22.2 points per game during the five tourney games.
After the Blazers lost to King 80-65 in the third game, AT took Geneva down to the wire last Friday. Pupillo hit some big shots down the stretch and the Blazers led with 4.5 seconds left, but Geneva scored at the buzzer to win.
The Blazers bounced back with a late game-winner against Lake Zurich in Saturday's tournament finale. With 10 seconds left, Pupillo dribbled the length of the floor and scored as time expired.
"It was nice to see we can control a lot of what goes on on the floor," Lyons said. "If we can play with just a high degree of energy throughout the game, we can be in almost every game we play in."
The Blazers also got big contributions from outside shooter Joe Kurucar, Ronald Duling and inside-out threat Taylor White. Senior Joe Villasenor, a 6-foot-5 forward, also stepped up as a rebounder and inside finisher.
AT next plays Friday when it hosts Downers Grove South in the West Suburban Gold opener for both teams.
AT basketball at West Chicago tournament
• West Chicago 74, AT 67
• AT 88, Marmion 84
• King 80, AT 65
• Geneva 42, AT 41
• AT 60, Lake Zurich 59