CRETE | Minutes after Illinois Lutheran disposed of visiting Beecher 60-46 Tuesday night, Austin Wood and his fellow Chargers were pushing brooms and breaking down the bleachers. It was all part of the night's chores.
"I'm new here, so it's a whole new thing for me," said Wood, a 6-foot-9 junior center. "I've never had to clean up a gym after a home game, so it builds character, I guess."
"That's right," Illinois Lutheran coach Mark Kjenstad said.
"I don't mind," Wood said. "I'm always cleaning the house."
Wood also helped clean up on the court as Illinois Lutheran (6-5, 2-3) withstood several Beecher runs after building an early 20-6 lead in the River Valley Conference game. Wood finished with 16 points and 14 rebounds.
The Bobcats (5-10, 2-3) went on a 21-8 run to narrow the gap to 28-27 late in the second quarter, hustling after loose balls and rebounds to get back in the game.
"That's how we want to play," Beecher coach Tony Waznonis said. "We don't want to slow the tempo down, and I thought we slowed the tempo down too many times tonight offensively, and it showed with us not shooting very well."
Illinois Lutheran's Jayson Williams drained a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to put the host on top 31-27 at the break.
"I thought the three at the end of the half by Jayson Williams was huge to give us a little cushion," Kjenstad said. "And then Mack (Newson) comes out and hits a 3 to start the third quarter. I thought those six points were really big to give us a comfortable lead."
The Chargers pushed the advantage to 43-32 as Williams and Newson combined for 12 points to open the third.
"We played with some intensity in the second half," said Newson, who finished with a game-high 20 points.
"We kept them at arm's length the rest of the game after that, but I give Beecher a lot of credit. They kept coming at us. They kept changing defenses and didn't let us get into a rhythm."
Illinois Lutheran took its biggest lead at 54-35 midway through the fourth quarter before withstanding another Beecher run.
"We just kept pushing and didn't give up this time," Wood said.
Jake Krabbe led the Bobcats with 13 points, but they couldn't get enough shots to fall when it counted.
"We missed almost 40 shots, whether it was at the free-throw line or 3's or 2's in close," Waznonis said. "We couldn't finish."