STERLING – Ethan Schuemer and Ben Wolf are familiar foes, but found themselves facing each other in unfamiliar territory.
The big men from Willowbrook and Naperville Central are AAU teammates, but in their first game at the Sterling MLK Tournament Saturday afternoon they were jockeying for position in the paint against one another.
Schuemer’s 18 points bested Wolf’s 15 as Willowbrook won game one of its defense of the tournament championship 59-46.
“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and obviously we’re trying to bust each other,” Schuemer said. “It’s a lot of fun playing against him.”
Wolf, a 6-foot-9 Northern Michigan recruit, made all five of his first half field goals, but the rest of the Redhawks had a tough time against the Warriors’ defense. Willowbrook (11-3) forced seven turnovers and held every other Redhawks player to 1-for-11 shooting.
Jack Hines and Matthew Myers each had steals that led to fast-break layups; Myers’ gave the Warriors the first double-digit lead at 17-7 late in the first quarter.
The Redhawks (11-4) tried to mount a 3-point attack in the second half, but couldn’t get less than six points from the lead.
Willowbrook came off a buzzer-beating loss Tuesday to Morton on a 3-point shot, and wasn’t going let a barrage of them do them in.
“Coming off [Tuesday’s] loss, we’ve been working especially hard on defense these past couple of days,” Schuemer said. “We know how good we can be defensively, and if we’re executing on the defensive end, it plays a huge factor on how good our offense can be.”
Dillon Kane and Tyler O’Brien hit four of Central’s five 3s in the third quarter, but wound up with its second loss in less than 24 hours. The Redhawks lost to Naperville North on Friday.
Schuemer, a St. Cloud State recruit, finished one rebound shy of a double-double.
“We just got to keep with it the whole weekend,” Schuemer said. “There’ll be times when we’re feeling winded on the court, especially in the second game, but we just got to push and keep battling to make sure we finish those long days.”
The Warriors went 3-1 last year to win the tournament championship, and are looking for their second tournament title of the year alongside the Stagg Tournament in November.
“You got to win the battle of attrition, because there’s four games in three days. We hope our guys don’t get exhausted,” Willowbrook Chris Perkins said. “That plays a major part in it, because it’s not one game a day. If our bodies are right, and physically we’re able to come back, we got to make sure we execute great.
“We executed great for sure that first game. Now we just got to continue it.”