JOLIET – Joliet West opened Tuesday night’s nonconference matchup against longtime rival Lockport on fire.
Trevian Bell stoked the flames all night long as the Tigers whipped the visiting Porters, 74-45, to remain unbeaten.
After Teyvion Kirk hit a 3-pointer to open the scoring, Bell hit two straight from long distance and Kirk scored on a layup as the Tigers converted three Lockport turnovers into points and led, 11-2, two minutes into the game.
“That’s what we try to do, get the first hit, knock ’em down early,” said Bell, who made 10 of 11 shots, including 4 of 5 from 3-point land, and 2 of 3 free throws for a game-high 26 points.
Lockport scored the next basket, John Meyer’s layup, to make it 11-4, and that’s as close as the Porters would get. West led, 38-20, at half and Bell finished things off in the second half when he scored 16 of his points.
“I have been one of our top scorers in the past,” Bell said. “I’ve been trying to get my teammates involved more. But it’s always a good feeling to come out and shoot like this. That builds a lot of confidence.”
“Trevian has been working hard trying to get his stroke back,” West coach Nick DiForti said. “He needed a night like that.”
DiForti said the quick start for the Tigers (8-0) was the result of how they practiced for the Porters (4-4).
“Our defense played really hard, similar to how we practiced,” he said. “We practice according to how we want to play.”
There was some talk in the Tigers’ camp about how Lockport had knocked them off on their floor a year ago.
“We talked about that a little,” DiForti said. “Lockport played how they were supposed to last year. That was two or three times they beat us at home.”
“We talked about it, but we didn’t let that affect us,” Bell said. “We just wanted to come out and play our regular game.”
Kirk finished with 15 points, 13 in the first half. Eddie Creal chipped in eight and Tabyous Casterberry, Elijah Ward, Michael Smith and Charles McKinney had five.
“He sparks us,” DiForti said of Kirk. “What I liked was the other night against Plainfield East when he had 20 and we had four or five guys with eight points.”
Lockport coach Brett Hespell said his team is searching for answers. He used everyone on his bench.
“First of all, take nothing away from Joliet West,” he said. “They are good, they know they’re good. They play with that confidence.
“We don’t have that collective belief. The lack of fight has to change. Whoever we have on the floor representing Lockport, regardless of who is playing, we have to find a way to match that.”
Point guard Matt Smietanski led the Porters with 11 points, and he did a good job against West’s pressure less than a week after he faced the same sort of heat against Bolingbrook and Thornton.
“We have put so much on his plate,” Hespell said of Smietanski. “He is starting to get accustomed to the speed, all the bodies and hands flying around.”
Christian Schultz, Jacob Karli and Zachary Pytlewski all scored six points for Lockport, which 38.1 percent on 16 of 42 and committed 17 turnovers.
West, meanwhile, shot at a .592 clip (29 of 49), committed 13 turnovers and held a 26-20 rebounding edge. Bell led all rebounders with six.
“We’ll keep plugging away,” Hespell said. “We have a lot of questions for ourselves that everyone has to answer.”
So, a West-Lockport nonconference game is in the books, what with the Tigers having moved to the Southwest Prairie this school year.
“It’s weird to play them in a nonconference game,” DiForti said. “That’s why we want to keep playing them and Bolingbrook. We three coaches [including Bolingbrook’s Rob Brost] get along really well.”
West will visit Bolingbrook on Jan. 24, a date more than a few local fans have circled on their calendars.