East boys basketball coach Ron Allen never offered the officials a "Thank you" for their part in getting many of his starters in foul trouble on Friday against Kapaun Mount Carmel, but he could have.
It allowed Allen to give significant minutes to reserves C.J. Graham and Kimron Burris, who rewarded their coach with important plays during a close game in the first half, before the Blue Aces pulled away for a 79-46 win.
Graham and Burns combined for 21 points and 15 rebounds, and East jelled nicely with a mix of bench players and starters in the second half.
"I know exactly what we have and I have confidence in those kids that come off the bench," Allen said. "I'm strongly confident in those guys. They could start if they wanted to, but I think they're good young men who accept their roles coming off the bench, and that's helping us."
By the end of the first half, four of East's starters — Jalen Love, Nathan Jackson, Ronnie McFann and R.J. Melbert — had at least two fouls, and Graham and Melbert eached picked up their fourth less than three minutes into the third quarter.
By that time, Graham and Burris had already established themselves as difference makers. East trailed 14-8 in the first quarter, but a three-pointer by Burris gave the Aces the lead in the midst of a 23-2 run.
After the run, East led by double digits throughout except for a 29-second span in the third quarter.
"(Allen) just told me to stay comfortable out there," Burris said. "Take the shots when they're open, and I just knocked them down for him."
Burris scored five points in the third quarter when East had to fight off Kapaun, which scored the first five points of the quarter to cut East's lead to 41-32.
Graham is a complementary player who provides physicality in the paint, but Friday, Graham was an offensive force in addition to defensive contributions.
Graham had a game-high nine rebounds, but he scored a basket at the end of the first quarter and added seven points in the second, showing his versatility by making a three-pointer and having a chance at a three-point play before missing the free throw.
"Get rebounds, defense, steals," is how Graham described his usual role. "But on offense, I came ready to play today."
Allen is confident using his reserves because veterans Love, Williams and Jackson keep the rest of the team steady. Love and Williams didn't experience the foul trouble of the rest of their teammates, and their presence allowed East to make the 21-2 run in the first half and to score the first 16 points of the fourth quarter. Jackson heated up in the fourth to finish with 14 points and Williams led all scorers with 21.
"Those are my veterans," Allen said. "I've put a lot of stock in those three. If they're not being effective offensively, the knowledge and the decision making they have on the court just keeps us settled. They serve their purpose very well."
East (3-0, 2-0) 21 20 17 21 —79 Kapaun Mt. Carmel (1-2, 1-2) 14 13 17 2 —46
EAST: Love 3 0-2 6, Williams 8 4-6 21, Jackson 5 4-5 14, Melbert 1 4-4 6, McFann 5-6 0-1 10, King 0 0-0 0, Burris 3 1-1 9, Burris 3 1-1 9 Griffin 0 1-2 1. Totals 30 (4) 15-24 79.
KAPAUN: Martin 4 0-0 9, Lewis 2 3-3 7, Cook 0 2-4 2, Reynolds 1 1-2 3, Edward 1 0-0 2, Floyd 1 2-8 4, Griffith 1 0-0 2, Meitzner 0 3-4 3, Baxter 2 6-6 11, Sheets 1 0-0 3, Hesse 0 0-2 0, Akao 0 0-1 0. Totals 13 (3) 17-30 46.