Bulldogs keep rolling forward, still unbeaten
The post-Hillcrest letdown that John Chappetto feared never materialized.
Oh, there were moments during last week’s practice sessions where Richards players seemed to lack an emotional edge, but it was nothing that game-night competition couldn’t remedy.
While neither Bremen nor TF South represented the same kind of imposing obstacle for the Bulldogs to clear as the Hawks had the week before, Richards didn’t let its guard down and managed to take care of business smartly. Against the Braves last Tuesday, for example, the Bulldogs used a 22-11 scoring advantage in the opening quarter to gain the upper hand, which eventually translated into a resounding 64-36 South Suburban Conference crossover victory.
Then on Friday versus the Rebels, Richards broke open a close contest by embarking on a 10-0 run at the beginning of the third period. The Bulldogs outscored TF South 26-9 for the entire quarter, and that surge propelled them to a 65-56 triumph that kept their 2013-14 ledger spotless.
Richards’ 7-0 start to the campaign is its best since the 2007-08 season, when it won its first eight games. The Bulldogs went 20-0 the year before that.
“It’s definitely enjoyable to be winning,” said Chappetto, who’s now in his 12th season as Richards’ varsity coach. “We’re getting a lot of contributions from a lot of guys and we have no issues with confidence.
“My job is to keep them focused on the bigger picture. It’s about more than winning a game on a Tuesday night in December.”
Chappetto knows of what he speaks — his 2007-08 club brought home a Class 4A state championship. While he is not yet predicting such a lofty goal for his current squad, Chappetto also realizes the 2013-14 Bulldogs are not an extension of the 2012-13 team that was plagued by off-the-court troubles at different times.
The only real matter with which Richards had to concern itself on Tuesday was how to deal with a sub-par outing from Josh Meier. The 6-foot-7 Chicago State University-bound senior, who is normally the Bulldogs’ go-to guy on offense, was held to eight points by a swarming Bremen defense.
“I expected [Braves coach] Brian Flaherty to have a game plan that was good,” Chappetto said. “We knew they were going to try to take Meier out by sending everybody at him. They’re tiny and quick, and we felt they would give us some problems.”
But while Meier’s whereabouts were constantly accounted for, Bremen wasn’t as successful handling Thaer Othman and Deon Alexander in the early going. Othman deposited three 3-point baskets in the first quarter and Alexander added seven markers to spearhead a still-potent Richards attack.
The Braves made some second-period inroads, but a closing 7-2 run by the Bulldogs (7-0, 3-0) kept the hosts’ margin at double digits. Then after allowing Bremen to notch the first field goal of the third frame, Richards went on a 19-0 tear that cemented the verdict in its favor.
Dedrick Shannon, who had picked up two quick fouls and been a nonfactor before halftime, tossed in eight points for the ’Dogs during their clinching blitz. He had 12 for the quarter and 16 for the evening. Alexander (10 points) nailed a 3-pointer to further aid Richards’ run.
Spencer Tears tallied 11 points for the Bulldogs and Meier grabbed a team-best eight rebounds to augment his scoring. Richards owned a huge 47-19 edge on the glass and held the Braves to a 26 percent success rate from the floor. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, clicked on 21-of-54 shots, including half of the 12 they launched from beyond the arc.
TF South 56
The script got flipped on Friday, as the Bulldogs were the ones victimized by a rapid getaway.
While Meier went 4-of-5 from the field, Richards’ other players were a combined 0-of-13 in the opening eight minutes. With the Rebels canning eight of their first 14 shots, the visitors jumped out to a 19-8 lead.
“If you saw the first quarter and then saw the final score, you wouldn’t believe it,” Chappetto said. “We were getting shots — layups — and missing them [at the outset], and we did a horrible job of guarding them.
“Our kids know what’s going on as far as who’s good, and this was a team that gave us a different style of play because of their length — they’re big inside and big on the wings. [But] over the years at home, when we need it, our defense kind of shows up.”
It did so here in the third period. The Bulldogs had played themselves back into contention during the second stanza, in part by switching to a 1-3-1 zone defense. Individuals stepping forward for Richards included Tears (two 3s) and Jordan Cottrell (six points, including two after his own steal, and two rebounds).
TF South was still ahead at intermission, but its 27-26 lead disappeared beneath the aforementioned 10-0 Bulldogs run that ushered in the third quarter. Shannon produced 11 of Richards’ 26 markers in the period, Meier threw down a couple dunks after the ’Dogs stole the ball from the Rebels, and the home team also benefited from a 12-4 advantage on the boards.
“I’d love to be up by 25 at halftime, but a lot of the [locker room] conversation at halftime was somewhat calm,” Chappetto said. “It was an ugly first half, but we came back and we talked about defending and continuing to try to score within [the scheme of] our offense.”
TF South narrowed the gap to eight in the fourth quarter, but never threatened to overtake Richards, which netted all but two of its final-period points at the foul line. Meier (23 points, 11 rebounds) was the Bulldogs’ ringleader, but Shannon (15 points) and Tears (11) were able accomplices for him.
After playing six of its first seven contests at home, Richards hits the road twice this week. After visiting Brother Rice on Tuesday, the Bulldogs travel to Calumet City on Friday for an SSC matchup with TF North.
Bremen 11 12 7 6 - 36
Richards 22 13 21 8 - 64
Richards Scoring: Shannon 16, Tears 11, Alexander 10, T. Othman 9, Meier 8, Hussein 4, Burton 2, Jones 2, Spencer 2. Rebounds: Meier 8. Assists: Shannon 2. Steals: T. Othman 3.
TF South 19 8 9 18 - 56
Richards 8 18 26 13 - 65
Richards Scoring: Meier 23, Shannon 15, Tears 12, Cottrell 6, Anagnostopolous 4, Catledge 2, T. Othman 2, Alexander 1. Rebounds: Meier 11.