PLANO — The holiday season brings joy and happiness for most, but for a basketball team, the vacation can cause rust to form.
It showed for the Mendota boys basketball team Wednesday as it fell 94-83 to Aurora Christian in the Trojans’ first game at the 50th Annual Plano Christmas Classic.
No. 4-seeded Mendota went into the game against the No. 13 Eagles with little court time in the last week.
“I mean, 10 days without a game, two days without a practice, we just didn’t come out like we should have,” MHS senior Trae Blumhorst said. “I don’t think we can use it as an excuse. They had Sunday, Monday, Tuesday that they didn’t practice either.
“We never really got into it. We were able to take a few charges, but the intensity was low all game and we couldn’t pick it up.”
The Eagles made a living on fast break baskets and well-timed passes to senior forward Cory Windle, who finished with a game-high 31 points.
Mendota (9-3) stayed in the game with sniper-like 3-point shooting from Blumhorst (3-of-5), senior guard/forward Jon Gehm (4-of-6) and senior guard Evan Carroll (2-of-4), but the Trojans didn’t have a lead outside of the first quarter because of shaky defense.
The Eagles had a 22-20 lead after the first quarter and went into halftime with a 42-40 lead.
The two-point Trojan deficit expanded to eight in the third as Aurora Christian continued to pound the ball down the court.
“They outplayed us. I think sometimes having the higher seed can be a little bit of a bad thing because you get that one extra day off,” Trojan coach Jan Thompson said. “Not that it meant a whole lot, but they had a game before us.
“It was kind of a blessing in disguise for them that they got to play before us and they were able to stay fresh and stay in that game mode. We hadn’t played since last Saturday and our kids are more of a routine type of team and they weren’t able to stay in the same routine of doing stuff.”
Thompson said that while off-court time was a main component in the Trojans’ struggles, it wasn’t the only one.
He gave Aurora Christian credit for exploiting Mendota’s inability to stop the Eagles from scoring. He added the Trojans were not communicating, didn’t move their feet, didn’t turn their heads to find cutters coming through the lane and didn’t come back fast enough on transition defense.
Each of Mendota’s five starters finished in double-figure point totals as Blumhorst led the way with 25, Evan Carroll had 15, sophomore guard James Carroll added 14, Gehm had 12 — all from downtown — and senior center Austin O’Sadnick finished with 11.
“I still feel we’re the better team. We weren’t ready,” Blumhorst said. “I think we came in seeing we were the four seed and they were 13 and took it for what it was.”
The Trojans return for day three of the tournament to face Wilmington at 2 p.m. today.
Ottawa 52, Genoa-Kingston 38
The No. 10-seeded Pirates used a big second quarter to spark an upset of No. 7-seeded Genoa-Kingston.
The Cogs led 11-8 after the first quarter, but Ottawa outscored G-K 21-9 in the second quarter to take a 29-20 halftime lead.
The Pirates continued their strong play after halftime and extended their lead to 46-30 at the end of the third quarter.
J.D. Bryant scored a game-high 16 points for the Pirates, while John Carroll had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Ottawa (7-3) will play No. 2-seeded Seneca at 8:30 tonight in the quarterfinals.
Princeton 57, Somonauk 42
The Tigers and Bobcats played within two points of each other in three of the four quarter, but Princeton outscored Somonauk 21-7 in the second quarter to stay alive for the consolation championship.
Three PHS players scored in double figures led by J.J. Vaccaro’s game-high 16 points that went along with six steals.
Zach Hicks and Josh Kieffer each added 10 points. Kieffer also had six rebounds, four assists and four steals.
Princeton plays Burlington Central at 8 tonight in the consolation semifinals.
Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.