OTTAWA — Streator High School varsity basketball coach Beau Doty most definitely would like to have seen a better outing in the opening game of the 2018-19 campaign.
But then again Doty may not have figured his team would have faced such a talented and fundamentally sound team from Oak Forest in the first round of the annual Dean Riley Shootin' the Rock Thanksgiving Tournament where the locals dropped a lopsided 61-40 decision here at Kingman Gym.
The Bulldogs struggled from the get go to stay with the Bengals who raced out to a 13-point lead after one quarter and then went ahead 15 at the half.
Oak Forest led by 20 after three quarters before closing with the 21-point triumph where it shot a very formidable 24 of 51 (47 percent) from the field, committed a mere eight turnovers on the night while also forcing 17 Streator miscues with some swarming defensive pressure.
Conversely, the Bulldogs had a hard time hoisting the rock netting only 13 of 44 (30 percent) off the floor while allowing three of Bengals – senior Ethan Balinao and juniors Jayson Kent and Juan Avila – to provide 77 percent of Oak Forest's total scoring output as Streator fell in a big way against a very formidable ballclub.
"They were a very good, very sharp, very skilled team with some big kids who all were tough and that definitely presented some problems for us tonight," Doty said. "I don't think we did a good enough job getting ball pressure on them and making their game more difficult. So it was a tough way to start for our team with a huge chunk being their first varsity start. We were way too passive in many ways versus a team that was just a load to guard and compete against."
The Bulldogs were led in scoring by sophomore Amarion Ford's 14 points — including four 3-point bombs. Junior Mason Benning followed with nine tallies, while junior center Jimmy Tredway added eight.
Meanwhile, the triumphant trio of Balinao – who scored a game-high 17 points along with 15 markers apiece from Kent and Avila – ruled the proceedings with a little help from freshman post Robbie Avila who dropped in eight points and a contest-best six rebounds.
"Our three guys who are all returning starters and upperclassmen really provided us with great scoring balance and shared the ball with each other so well tonight," said Oak Forest coach Matt Manzke. "Our passing and our defense were also tremendous where Jayson (Kent) carried us early, Ethan (Balinao) then took over in the second half while Juan (Avila) was consistent all game long. For a first game of the season, this was as good as we could've hoped for from our guys against a solid team like Streator. I'm very pleased with this start."
The Bengals jumped up big in the first quarter 17-4 as Juan Avila hit a right-wing 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 45 seconds left before Oak Forest closed out the opening stanza ahead 21-8.
Kent then took over in the second period tallying 10 points. But the Bulldogs held tough with Tredway and Mason Benning each contributing six points in the first half, with Benning putting home a nifty runner in the lane at the 1:50 mark while Christian Bedecker added a lay-in with 30 seconds to go as Streator trailed 36-21 at halftime.
Balinao caught fire in the second half scoring 10 points, six of which came in the third quarter as Oak Forest went ahead 49-29 with eight minutes left to contest.
Ford did his best to help the Bulldogs rally in the fourth period nailing top of the key triples at 7:25 and 4:40 followed by a trey from the left baseline at 3:15 to cut the gap to 55-38, but Streator never really posed a threat after that.
The Bulldogs will continue Pool A competition tonight versus arch-rival and hosts Ottawa at 8 p.m. The Pirates were a winner versus Marengo in their opener on Monday.
"We'll have another great test against Ottawa tomorrow and hopefully we can bounce back in what should be a great environment for high school basketball and this tournament," Doty said.
At Kingman Gym, Ottawa
Oak Forest 61, Streator 40
(Key: FG FT-FTA TP)
OAK FOREST (61) – Gonzalez 1 0-0 2, Taylor 0 0-0 0, Wright 1 0-0 2, Kent 7 2-4 17, J. Avila 4 6-17 15, Kilcommons 1 0-0 2, Balinao 7 2-4 17, Torres 0 0-2 0, Murrar 0 0-0 0, Phillips 0 0-0 0, R. Avila 3 2-3 8, Lohr 0 0-0 0. Totals 24-51 10-16 61.
STREATOR (40) – Ramon 0 0-0 0, Jordan 0 0-2 0, Colter 0 0-0 0, M. Benning 2 4-4 9, P. Benning 0 0-0 0, A. Benning 0 0-0 0, Ford 4 2-2 14, Spears 0 0-0 0, Bedecker 1 0-0 2, Tredway 3 2-2 8, Baker 1 0-0 2, Houch 1 1-2 3, Mascal 1 0-0 2. Totals 13-44 9-12 40.
Oak Forest (1-0) 21 15 13 12 – 61
Streator (0-1) 8 13 8 11 – 40
3-point goals – Oak Forest 3-16 (Kent, Balinao, J. Avila); Streator 5-24 (Ford 4, M. Benning). Rebounds – Oak Forest 27 (R. Avila 6, Balinao 5, J. Avila 5); Streator 23 (P. Benning 5). Turnovers – Oak Forest 8; Streator 17. Total fouls (fouled out) – Oak Forest 19 (Wright); Streator 12 (none).