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The slow-paced style Lincoln-Way Central has become known for over the past few years was nowhere in sight Wednesday night.
Knights guard Kevin Mampe called the up-tempo attack his team deployed against Illiana Christian “a lot more fun.”
Central’s press was the catalyst in an 18-5 third quarter run as the host Knights opened a big lead then held on late for a 65-59 win on the opening night of the Knights/Warriors Winter Classic.
“We have a deep bench and we’re trying to push the tempo to wear teams down,” said Mampe, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds. “We think our bench can outplay other teams’ benches.”
Brad Bass had 15 points and five rebounds while Joe Newtoff added 12 points and five rebounds for the Knights (2-2).
Joe Zandstra paced Illiana (4-2) with 15 points.
A nip-and-tuck first half ended with Central ahead 30-29 and the teams traded baskets to begin the third quarter before the Knights ripped off a 14-0 run to take control, forcing eight turnovers during the stretch.
Newtoff and Matt Mikolajczak each knocked down a trey during the surge while Bass scored four points and Alex Parks added four off the bench.
The Knights, who leaned heavily on star center Brad Foster last season, are intent on spreading the offense around this year.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that are really even,” Central coach Bob Curran said. “They do a good job making the extra pass and they battle.”
Down 50-34 early in the fourth quarter, Illiana rallied behind nine points from Zandstra, but could get no closer than a five-point deficit in the final minute.
“We gave that much intensity in the fourth quarter,” Illiana coach Thomas Roozeboom said. “We needed that in the third. It was just too late and we ran out of time.”
Caleb Jonkman (12 points, 7 rebounds), Elijah Lares (10 points, 5 rebounds) and Marcus Ottenhoff (10 points) contributed for the Vikings.