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Boys Basketball: Addison Trail hands Stagg first loss

Updated: December 17, 2013 1:07AM

James Pupillo is in his fourth season on Addison Trail’s varsity but he had never experienced the type of euphoria he did Monday night at the Addison Trail Tournament.

The senior guard tallied 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals as the host Blazers upset previously unbeaten Stagg 71-61 to clinch a spot in Saturday’s tournament championship game.

“It feels great,” Pupillo said. “We lost two buzzer-beater games so we could be 7-3 right now. We’re 5-5 but it’s looking good.”

Addison Trail never trailed and the game was tied only three times, the last coming at 9-9 midway through the opening quarter. The Blazers came out on fire, making 7 of 10 shots in the first quarter to take a 17-12 lead.

Pupillo and senior guard Joe Kurucar blitzed Stagg (8-1) for a combined 28 points, including six three-pointers, in the first half. Kurucar scored nine of his 17 points in the first quarter, all on three-pointers, and then Pupillo erupted for 14 points in the second quarter to extend the Blazers’ lead to 39-27 at the break.

“We’re a lot better this year,” Pupillo said. “Our potential is through the roof. We’re putting together and it’s awesome.”

The Blazers proved it was no fluke as they held off an inevitable rally by Stagg. The Chargers opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run to shave the deficit to four points. The score was 51-47 when Addison’s Ronald Duling scored on a drive and Tyler Gilliam followed with a three-point play and Stagg never got within five points after that.

Max Strus scored 26 points and Jeff Goral added 13 for Stagg, which shot only 21-for-63 from the floor.

“We knew coming into the game who their guys were,” Pupillo said. “I think our guys did a great job on them. We took charges, we got them into foul trouble and in the second half we had that 10-point lead most of the game.

“We just kind of made them extend and took advantage of them when they did that. It was basically good defense and good rebounding. We were contesting shots.”

And the Blazers were spreading the ball around. The Chargers bottled up Pupillo in the second half but Addison Trail didn’t miss a beat, finishing 24-for-46 from the floor and 14-for-21 from the line. Duling scored 13 points and Gilliam had all 10 of his points after intermission.

“These guys, they’re playing through with me,” Pupillo said. “[Defenses] focus on me with the double team and I’ve got guys that can just knock down shots.”

And Addison Trail coach Brendan Lyons now has a team that believes in itself despite last-second losses to Geneva and Wheaton North.

“It’s definitely the biggest [win] that our guys on varsity have had,” Lyons said. “We talked about this before the game that this is a game that we thought if we came out and played and they came out and played, it was going to be a battle. And it would be a game that people would kind of wake up tomorrow and look at the score and go, ‘Is there something wrong here? What’s going on?’

“We believe in what we’re doing and we feel like we have a good group of kids here. We talked about making a statement game and we thought that we did that out there tonight.”

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