YORKVILLE – Freshmen rarely make a huge impact on a high school basketball team, but at Yorkville Christian it’s become the norm.
Last year it was Jaden Schutt. Not it’s Brayden Long’s turn.
Long scored 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds and the Mustangs won their 20th game on Thursday night at The Canyon, disposing of Mooseheart 88-68.
“He’s getting his legs underneath him a lot better than he had at the beginning of the season and his confidence keeps growing,” Mustangs coach Aaron Sovern said of Long. “When our four perimeter guys are out there and the ball is changing sides we’re really hard to stop because we get open shots.”
Yorkville Christian (20-9) won its seventh straight game, althought it couldn't quite surpass 100 points for the fourth consecutive time.
Still, the Mustangs are averaging 88 points per game during their winning streak.
Senior Micah Schnyders led the Mustangs with 35 points, Schutt had 21 points and 14 rebounds, Christian Sovern knocked down three 3-pointers to finish with 9 points and Elijah Fisher had a bucket.
“We’re a tight knit group and since we play five guys we have a neat chemistry and our games complement each other,” Schnyders said. “When we get stops and we play hard that’s when we can really get up and down the court and just have fun. It’s a lot easier to win and play better when you’re relaxed.”
Having already played with Long prior to arriving in high school, Schutt had a good idea of what he could provide the Mustangs. Schutt also had been in those same big freshman shoes as a varsity starter a year ago.
“I met Brayden when he was in seventh grade and I was in eighth grade and I’ve been able to take him under my wing and get after him in practice and just go at it,” Schutt said. “We feed off each and he plays hard and it’s natural for him. He doesn’t play like a freshman. He’s got experience on him and is such a smart player for his age.”
And he’s worked hard to get even better as the season has rolled ahead.
“At the beginning of the season I only had three offensive rebounds in the first five games,” Long said. “I’ve gotten a lot more aggressive on the boards. Now I’m getting three offensive rebounds a game.”
One has to wonder where the Mustangs would be this season without Long, but the same can be said for Fisher, Schnyders, Schutt and Sovern. Long is not only serviceable but also can be the star on some nights. He scored a career-high 25 points to help the Mustangs rally from an eight-point halftime deficit to beat Marmion on Jan. 22.
“He’s been the perfect third option for us and I think sometimes he’s our first option,” Schnyders said. “He’s progressed so much since summer and his game keeps getting and better. He has such upside and has really fit into not just his role at the beginning of the season, but stepping out of that and getting his buckets when we need him. And that’s something we can’t take for granted. He’s been a game changer for us for sure.”
Mooseheart (16-8) hung with the hosts for a while, but the Mustangs took their biggest lead at 68-45 midway through the third quarter on a putback from Schutt.
The Red Ramblers, who nearly upset unbeaten Indian Creek on Monday, would fight back, pulling to within 79-66 midway through the fourth quarter but wouldn’t get any closer.
“People ask me about Indian Creek and I’ve seen them play a little bit, but all I tell them is put our schedule up against anybody,” Aaron Sovern said. “We try to really bulk up our schedule and I think that helps with the kids playing some really tough competition. We’ll take some lumps along the way but we’ll be ready for the playoffs.”
Among that tough competition is Louisville commit Bryce Hopkins Fenwick (20-6), who Yorkville Christian plays on Saturday in Oak Park.