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Buzzer-beaters sinking Blazers

Addison Trail's Taylor White brings the ball upcourt in Monday's home game against Wheaton North. The Blazers lost at the buzzer, continuing a frustrating early-season trend.
Addison Trail's Taylor White brings the ball upcourt in Monday's home game against Wheaton North. The Blazers lost at the buzzer, continuing a frustrating early-season trend.

ADDISON – The Addison Trail boys basketball team has already had enough late-game drama to fill an entire season.

Monday’s 63-62 loss to Wheaton North as part of AT’s pre-holiday tournament was the third game the Blazers have had decided at the buzzer and fourth go down to the final seconds.

After Simon Jakubczak put back a James Pupillo miss with four seconds left to give the Blazers a 62-60 lead, Wheaton North’s Matt Biegalski answered by swishing a contested 3-pointer on the left wing at the buzzer.

The Blazers fell to 2-5 but have been in every game down the stretch. In Friday’s West Suburban Gold opener against Downers Grove South, the Blazers led at halftime just like they did against Wheaton North before falling 52-46.

“We’re trying to tell our guys that we can’t keep looking at the results, we have to look at the process,” AT coach Brendan Lyons said. “The process has been similar in a lot of the games that we have lost. We’ve dug ourselves holes, typically in the third quarter, and in a variety of different ways. Friday night it was shooting the ball from the perimeter. [Monday] it was getting the ball to the basket and finishing and creating some things with our defense.”

Pupillo put up 26 points against the Falcons, with 18 coming in the second half. Taylor White and Ronald Duling each scored 10.

Pupillo handles a variety of key roles for the Blazers. In addition to being leading scorer, Pupillo is also responsible for creating shots for his teammates as the point guard. He also harassed Wheaton North’s guards into a number of turnovers. All that despite being under the weather, according to Lyons.

“I thought it was one of his better games I’ve seen him play here,” Lyons said. “Even in the first half when he wasn’t shooting it well, he was a catalyst for us in terms of getting guys looks whether it was off a rebound or a steal for transition baskets.”

Despite some positives, the bottom line is that the Blazers’ 2-5 record is well below their own expectations. Finding a way to make the competitive play translate into more wins will be the key the rest of the season.

“We can say we’re right there and we’re in every game, and that’s a step forward, but they want better than that, I want better than that,” Lyons said. “I think we could be 5-2 or 7-0, or we could be 0-7.

“[Monday was] the fourth time we’ve given ourselves the lead with under 15 seconds to go in a game, and we’re 1-3 in those games. This is twice now with under 4.5 seconds [left in a game] that the other team has had the ball and we’ve not been able to get that last stop.”

Addison Trail returns to action Friday at Leyden. The Blazers will play two more games in their pre-holiday tournament on Saturday and Monday.

Downers Grove South 52, Addison Trail 46
AT scoring leaders: Joe Kurucar 16; Ronald Duling 11; Taylor White 10

Wheaton North 63, Addison Trail 62
AT scoring leaders: James Pupillo 26; Duling 10; White, 10

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