The Chicago Steam prepare for this Sunday's contest after getting their last home victory in what head coach and team owner Ron Hicks could only describe as "a weird game."Several times in the first and third quarters of the Dec. 30 ABA contest, the Steam looked like they were going to run away with the game and cruise to victory only to see the Libertyville Vipers claw their way back into the contest in the second and fourth quarters. The Steam wound up winning the contest played at South Suburban College in South Holland, 121-109.The Steam went on most of their runs with their bench players, not starters, on the floor. The Steam's bench contributed 59 of the team's 121 points. The Steam bench outscored the Libertyville bench, 59-46, in the contest."We didn't get points from our starters, I'm not used to seeing that," Hicks said. "Our bench came through for us. We got a lot of our points from the bench."Leading the Steam's bench barrage was Jeff Harris, the team's high scorer for the game with 24 points, going a perfect 8-for-8 from behind the three-point arc.Harris, who tallied the eight three-pointers in just under 19 minutes of action, credited his teammates with doing a great job of setting screens and getting him the ball once he had the hot hand.Harris said he and other bench players, like Travis Smith who added 10 points, five rebounds and four steals in less than eight minutes of playing time, are happy to get things going when called upon."I think we can be effective," Harris said. "We need to keep the intensity up when we are put in the game. We can make a major impact if we bring the intensity."You've got starters like Andre (Muse), Bobby (Grier) and Chris (Smith) who are always going to bring the intensity. We as bench players need to bring that same focus."Muse added 23 points despite seeing limited action in the squad's second and fourth quarters. Muse and Mitchell Anderson were the only Steam starters to score in double figures. Anderson had 11 points."The starters were not getting it done. That is a serious concern," Hicks said. "The bench almost outscored the starters. The starters were not doing anything."The Steam built their largest lead of the game, 91-70, on a Harris three-pointer to open the fourth quarter. However, the Vipers continued to battle back and when they went on a 9-2 run late in the fourth quarter, the Steam lead was cut to eight, 112-104.A three-pointer from Travis Smith, however, stopped the Viper run; and the Steam were not tested in the game's closing minutes.Hicks said the squad, now 6-2, needs more consistency if it is going to make it to the ABA Finals this year.Libertyville's Myles Morgan led all scorers with 31 points.The Steam broke out to a 30-19 lead after one quarter, paced by Muse's nine points.Viper players outscored the Steam by eight points in the second quarter to cut the Steam lead to 49-46 at halftime.Harris had just three points at halftime, pouring in the other 21 after the break.The Steam pulled down 12 more rebounds than their opponents in the contest, topping the Vipers, 56-44, in that category.The Steam's next home game is at 5 p.m. Sunda at the Athletic Center at South Suburban College, 15800 S. State St., South Holland. Admission is $10.
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