Blazers hammer Eagles in home reopener

AT boys basketball defeated the Leyden Eagles 56-34 on Jan. 11 during their home reopener after critical performances from Blazer guards and a solid showing on defense. 

Despite a rough beginning for the Blazers, AT was able to find a rhythm, jumping out ahead late in the first quarter and establishing a strong lead by halftime.

The lead allowed the Blazers to play comfortably for the entirety of the second half.

“We got out to a slow start, but over the course of the 1st half, we were able to constantly put stops together at the defensive end of the floor,” said head coach Brenden Lyons.

Senior guard and team co-captain Sammy Renc agreed with his coach. Renc, who totaled seven points and played 27 minutes, attributed the team’s lead to their strong efforts.

“I think we brought hustle, which was a really big part of the win,” said Renc. “We started out slow but we still came back and never gave up.”

Nate Johnson powers through defenders for a two-point bucket. Johnson is one of the team’s leading scorers this season.

Amarie Stewart blocks an Eagle shot. Stewart had 7 rebounds during the game.

Jacob Daniels, the other senior co-captain for the team, totaled six points and seven rebounds during the game before leaving the game late in the fourth quarter with an injury. He mentioned the liveliness on the floor and the impact it had on the team’s ability to beat the Eagles.

“I thought that what we brought to the game was some energy and we really went on a run at the end to extend our lead,” he said. 

Lyons agreed with Daniels, stating that the team’s vigor helped to put the anchor into the game for AT.

“I thought our energy in the 3rd quarter was great and that helped us to break the game open.  During the 3rd quarter, I thought our guards, Luke Smith, Sammy Renc, Charles Little, Jacob Daniels and Amarie Stewart really got after them,” he said.

The energy seemed to radiate through the student section as well. Blazer spectators became especially wound up as Smith, a standout freshman guard, dropped 19 points, putting up the highest point total of the night for the Blazers. Smith, who is not only the lone underclassman to make the varsity team, but also has proven to be one of AT’s most talented players, received high praise from many of his senior teammates.

“Luke is young, brings energy to the team and plays hard. He’s competition for us as well,” said Daniels.

“He’s another guard that can handle the ball, shoot well, and has confidence,” Renc added.

In spite of the lopsided scoreboard in favor of AT, Lyons felt that the team could improve further by making adjustments while on defense. 

“I would like to see us continue to improve at the defensive end of the floor, specifically in our on the ball defense, awareness & communication,” he said.

He added that his team needed to capitalize on its opportunities.

“We need to stop being stupid. We had a chance to go on a 7-0 run during the fourth and we didn’t. We started to think the game was over just because we were up.”

Leyden was AT’s first home opponent in 2022 as a result of a canceled game due to a covid outbreak at Maine West. The Blazers’ upcoming opponents include West Chicago at home on Saturday, Hoffman Estates on the road on Tuesday, and a Friday night game at home against conference rival Downers Grove South on Jan 28. The Blazers will look to improve upon their winning record and boost their record in conference.

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