Junior center Mac Hagemaster knew Lincoln-Way East needed him to play a bigger part.
With Kyle Olagbegi out with an ankle injury Friday night, the Griffins were missing size and strength against a Lockport team that tends to turn every game into a test of grit.
“Kyle’s a big part of our offense.” Hagemaster said of the 6-foot-6 senior forward. “We like to run things through him. Coming into this game, I was like, ‘I’ve got to do more. I’ve got to step it up. I’ve got to score more inside.’
“Kyle scores a lot inside and he’s one of our best on putbacks. I had to bring more toughness.”
The 6-8 Hagemaster was up for the challenge, scoring a season-high nine points and blocking three shots to lead host Lincoln-Way East to a 55-40 SouthWest Suburban Blue win over Lockport in Frankfort.
Tylon Toliver scored 16 points, while George Bellevue contributed 13 points and seven rebounds for the Griffins (17-2, 2-1), who bounced back after having a 14-game winning streak snapped Tuesday by Bolingbrook.
Hagemaster set the tone early on both ends, scoring six points in the first quarter and altering several Lockport shots with his defense. The Griffins led 14-7 after one quarter.
“That was our game plan coming in,” Hagemaster said. “We wanted to get the ball down low, feed George and I early. Then, if they came and double downed on us, which they did a few times, we’d kick it out to Ty or BJ (Powell) and they hit their shots.”
Hagemaster also plays volleyball. He was briefly a swimmer when he was younger, following in the footsteps of older sister Grace, who is currently swimming for Rutgers.
He gave that up in fifth grade and focused on two sports where he can use his size.
“Volleyball helps basketball a lot,” Hagemaster said. “It helps with jumping ability, moving your feet quickly. The way you have to slide over to get in position when you’re blocking in volleyball, that helps a lot with defense for basketball.”
Lincoln-Way East coach Rich Kolimas was glad to see Hagemaster step up.
“Mac is fully capable and we’ve been looking forward to him emerging a bit more on the scoring end,” Kolimas said. “He rebounds like crazy. He’s really smart. He’s our guy in the back who talks all the time on defense and helps set things up.”
The Griffins led 24-13 at halftime and cruised from there as Lockport struggled to get going offensively aside from Falcon, who credited Hagemaster and the other Griffins’ big men.
“We were doing a whole lot of defense but not a lot of offense,” Falcon said. “They’re just so big, and they were able to block our shots or force us to miss.”
Even so, Kolimas said he hopes Olagbegi will return soon.
“Kyle’s not been playing well because he’s been injured for like two weeks or so,” Kolimas said. “I didn’t realize the severity of it until practice (Thursday). He went up on a drive and came down so gingerly.
“I said, ‘Kyle, this isn’t you.’ He’s banged up. We decided we need to rest him.”
In the meantime, the Griffins were still able to get back on track.
“It was a big game to get back into our rhythm,” Toliver said. “We were on a winning streak. Sadly, we lost to Bolingbrook, but we’re going to get back on a new winning streak.”
Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.