STERLING – Ethan Schuemer and Ben Wolf are familiar foes, but they found themselves facing each other in unfamiliar territory.
The big men from Willowbrook and Naperville Central, respectively, are AAU teammates, but in their first game at the Sterling MLK Tournament on Jan. 13, they were jockeying for position in the paint against one another.
Schuemer’s 18 points bested Wolf’s 15 as Willowbrook won 59-46 in the first game of its defense of the tournament championship.
“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.”
Willowbrook (14-3) went on to win the event for the second straight year, led by tournament MVP Schuemer. Schuemer scored 16 points in a 75-55 win over Sterling, Matas Masys had 19 points and 10 steals and Schuemer scored 18 points in a 79-51 win over Belvidere North, and Schuemer had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a 50-33 win over Dixon.
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 forced seven turnovers and held every other Redhawks player to 1-for-11 shooting in the first half.
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 could only close the gap to six points.
Willowbrook was coming off a buzzer-beating loss to Morton on a 3-point shot and wasn’t going to let a barrage of them do them in this time.
“Coming off that 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 3-pointers in the third quarter, but Central wound up with its second loss in less than 24 hours. The Redhawks lost to Naperville North on Jan. 12.
Schuemer, a St. Cloud State recruit, finished one rebound shy of a double-double.
“We just got to keep with it,” 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 won their second tournament title, alongside the Stagg Tournament crown 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 coach 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. Now we just got to continue it.”