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Disabato: Stagg will get back on winning track

Stagg's Max Strus (23) drives basket against Homewood-Flossmoor Flossmoor Friday December 6 2013. | Jim Boyce/For Sun-Times Media

Stagg's Max Strus (23) drives to the basket against Homewood-Flossmoor in Flossmoor Friday, December, 6, 2013. | Jim Boyce/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 20, 2014 8:22AM



Monday was a great day for Stagg boys basketball.

The Chargers were 8-0, sat at No. 4 in the SouthtownStar Top 10 and moved into the Sun-Times Super 25 for the first time all season.

“The kids were walking around high-fiving each other and social media was going crazy,” Stagg coach John Daniels said. “Then we fell on our faces.”

Allow me to be the voice of reason.

Don’t be going all gloom and doom on me now Charger Nation. This is not the time to sound the warning alarm. Not after two straight losses.

Yes, the loss Monday night to 5-5 Addison Trail was a bad one. Doubly bad for Daniels, whose son is a freshman at Addison Trail and was happy to inform dear-old dad that his school’s hoops program swept the Chargers on all three levels.

“It wasn’t pretty,” laughed Daniels.

And Tuesday’s 49-44 loss to Bolingbrook? I’m not a big believer in moral victories. But if you would have told me that Max Strus and Jeff Goral would have misfired on 19 of their first 20 shots and point guard Kevin White would be sidelined by an injury and the Chargers still would have made a game of it, I might have directed you to the school nurse’s office for a psychiatric evaluation.

Stagg should be rather proud of its effort vs. the Raiders.

I’m not taking anything away from Bolingbrook. The Raiders are 7-1 and could walk away with the SouthWest Suburban Blue championship and extend their good fortunes for a good duration in the postseason.

However, the next time Strus misses 12 of his first 13 shots, like he did Tuesday, lunch is on me at the Palos Diner or Windy City Subs, your pick.

If White played Tuesday, Stagg likely wins the game.

“Losing Kevin hurts,” Daniels said. “We had to have Max bring the ball up. When he didn’t we had a few turnovers, so he had to bring it up. But Bolingbrook is special. They have a lot of talent. They’re good enough to go downstate.”

Understand, for Stagg to play up to its potential, all the pieces to the puzzle must be present. Namely, the Big Three of Strus, White and Goral. Losing any one causes a domino effect.

With White out, Strus, the team’s leading scorer, had the additional responsibility of primary ballhandler. Goral was forced to try to pick up more of the scoring slack. On Tuesday, he was held scoreless.

The Stagg bench, too, didn’t produce a single point.

For the Chargers to be running at an optimal level, the Big Three have to be on the court together.

“We have to get points, even more so with Kevin out,” Daniels said. “We have to find a way to make some shots. We didn’t do that (Tuesday).”

Strus is a dynamic player. He’s been offered scholarships by Lewis University and Lindenwood University and more offers are sure to follow.

However, he’s in an adjustment period of his own. Last year, opponents keyed on teammate Sean Dwyer, now off to college, which allowed Strus to roam more freely.

This year, Strus is the man, a talent that can drain three-pointers, take defenders off the dribble to the rim and bring fans to their feet by way of a slam. But now he’s a marked man, the primary focus of every defense. To his credit, he’s still averaging 22 points per game.

“It was easier for me last year with Dwyer here,” Strus said. “Teams were keying on him and I was open for threes. I’ve got to get used to it and got to keep making adjustments.”

Strus said the perfect start and rankings might have had a little to do with the struggles Monday and Tuesday. But he’s confident the Chargers will bounce back.

“It’s great for the school to get the recognition,” he said. “We can’t let the rankings get to us. It stinks losing. But we’ll get better. We’ll be fine.”



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