Armani Chaney has that intuitive and learned ability to understand the pulse of his team.
“I’m the point guard and I’m supposed to keep everybody together,” he said.
The St. Rita senior point guard scored a season-high 25 points and added five rebounds, three assists and a steal in powering the No. 2 Mustangs over previously unbeaten Rockford Auburn 60-45 in a quarterfinal of the Proviso West Holiday tournament Tuesday in Hillside.
Chaney shot 11-for-16 from the floor and controlled every aspect of the game, pushing when available and slowing down if called upon. With his team pressed by the talented Knights (10-1), Chaney was the difference maker.
He scored 13 points in the fourth quarter and added a valuable steal and assist as St. Rita (7-1) outscored the Knights 14-4 in the final four and a half minutes to punch its ticket to Friday’s semifinal.
Chaney demonstrated his all-around game, scoring off the dribble, in transition and also pulling up for the mid-range jumper.
“I was just trying to finish the game out,” he said. “We’ve been talking the whole year about toughness and making sacrifices and making commitments out there.”
Kentucky recruit Charles Matthews posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Matthews was a terror defensively, using his length and quickness to disrupt Auburn’s half-court attack and interfere with its offensive rhythm.
Matthews recorded three steals and added four assists. Kain Harris also scored 11 points for the Mustangs. Matthews’ most important assist occurred early in the third quarter with the Mustangs down four.
He surveyed the floor and found 6-8 Myles Carter underneath with a bullet pass. Carter caught the ball and dunked it. Carter had five points and six rebounds and blocked three shots. His length caused Auburn’s normally highly accurate guards to flail at the rim.
“I’m just trying to make myself a presence out there,” Matthews said. “A lot of times my defense gets our offense going. My point guard, Armani, was scoring very well and I just kept feeding him the ball.”
Auburn (10-1) shot just 22 percent (6-for-28) in the second half, scoring just 18 points. Antoine Pittman scored a team-best 15 points, but he missed all six of his three-point shots. Auburn made just 3-for-24 from beyond the arc.
The only downside to the Mustangs’ effort was a sometimes relaxed attitude with the ball that produced 19 turnovers. The team offset that with 63 percent (25-for-40) shooting. Chaney was the primary reason.
“My role is to get everybody involved,” Chaney said. “I’m supposed to score, I’m supposed to facilitate. I’m supposed to pick the team up. If I hit the floor, I’m supposed to be the first one up.”