You know they say practice makes perfect. Well, not always.
Old Man Winter came a calling Wednesday, which forced the Xavier basketball team to chill out.
No school meant no practice and when they showed up at Fox Valley Lutheran on Thursday, things just snowballed, but in a good way.
The Hawks got off to a fast start after one quarter, extended their lead at the half and then went on a 16-4 tear in the third quarter that was the difference in a 55-44 victory over the Foxes in an Eastern Valley Conference game.
In this case, rest was best.
“We didn’t have practice because of the snow day,” said junior Matt Ferris, who made five three-pointers en route to a 15-point night. “I just came out in warm-ups, feeling rested and everything. Yeah, I don’t know, I just got it rolling and then kept going. My teammates screening for me, getting me open shots and they were just falling for me today.”
Senior Brady Johnson, who led all scorers with 17 points, felt rest translated into energy against the Foxes.
“Coming off a snow day, we didn’t practice so we were well-rested and came out and played our hearts out,” Johnson said.
Xavier led 27-19 at the half but came out even better in the third quarter, working its inside-outside game to near perfection. The Hawks made three straight threes at one point, and also got three baskets from close range as they outscored FVL 16-4 to take a 20-point lead into the final quarter.
“At halftime, we said they were going to come and play their best third quarter of the season,” said Xavier coach Matt Klarner. “And we answered with our best third quarter of the season. That was important for our kids to do that.”
It proved even more important as Xavier appeared to go into prevent mode in the final quarter, only to make several mistakes and see the Foxes rally.
With the lead cut to 14, Xavier had five straight empty trips — with three turnovers and twice missing the front end of the one-and-one — but the Foxes were able to score only two points in that stretch.
FVL coach Matt Koepsell was equally disappointed in his team’s slow start and its inability to take advantage of the opportunities to get back into the game in the fourth quarter.
“It was a big game and we just didn’t execute, early,” he said. “Did not run our stuff the way we’re supposed to run it. That was disappointing.
“Then we finally started to do what we were supposed to, and I think they gave us five possessions in a row where they either had a turnover or missed a free throw, and we came down and couldn’t convert. We had a chance to close that gap. So, yeah, disappointed in both of those things.”
For Xavier, it marked the first sweep of FVL since the 2008-09 season.
“It’s a great rivalry and we feel very fortunate to get two victories,” said Klarner. “I think our guys battled hard and just really pulled together as a team. Played with a lot of pride, a lot of emotion and toughness.”
Those are precisely the traits the Hawks will need to continue to employ as the season hits the home stretch.
“I think we’re in a great position,” said Johnson. “We’re working hard, playing better each day, practice is going well, we’re firing on all cylinders.”
Xavier: Sawasky 2, Ferris 15, Freimuth 2, B. Johnson 17, DeBruin 3, Lenz 5, Maertz 4, T. Johnson 7. Totals: 19 8-18 55. Three-pointers: Ferris 5, B. Johnson 3, DeBuin. Fouls: 9.
Fox Valley Lutheran: Schwebs 11, Ashman 7, Fuhrmann 9, Hungerford 5, Paulos 4, Knoepke 8. Totals: 17 10-11 44. Fouls: 19.
— Mike Woods: 920-993-1000, ext. 232, or email@example.com; On Twitter @PCMikeW