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Losing their bite

  • Written by Ken Karson

Bulldogs scrap their way to split

  Basketball’s dog days may have already arrived at Richards.

  That’s because these assuredly aren’t the ’Dogs’ days.
  At least that was true a couple times in a busy week. Two South Suburban Conference contests, followed by a pair of encounters in Rockford Jefferson’s Martin Luther King holiday tournament proved draining to Richards, an assessment validated by its mostly uninspired performance in the second of two Saturday games.
  But the resultant 54-46 loss to the tourney hosts wasn’t the Bulldogs’ only low point. Even more frustrating to coach John Chappetto was Richards’ Friday defeat against Oak Forest, which marred the former’s heretofore spotless league ledger.

  The Bulldogs are still leading the SSC Red and boast a record well over .500, but Chappetto admitted that by Saturday night he was virtually “too tired to coach” and figured his players were equally spent.
  “Our guys seemed disinterested or tired or something,” he said in the aftermath of the Rockford Jefferson clash. “I didn’t like our focus. We just looked lifeless.”
  Not at the outset, as Richards raced to a 16-11 first-period lead. But a five-point second stanza indicated trouble, and by the time the J-Hawks constructed a 35-26 edge in the third quarter Chappetto had seen enough. He removed all his starters and prepared to simply ride out the remainder of the game.
  But a funny thing happened before that — the Bulldogs’ reserves infused the team with energy. Antoine Listenbee and Ameen Hussein, in particular, gave Richards some fuel by tallying nine points between them in the third frame and bringing the visitors within 37-33 at the break.
  “It was a [competitive] game the rest of the way,” Chappetto said.
  It didn’t, however, tilt in the Bulldogs’ direction, although they were still within two after Josh Meier nailed a pair of fourth-quarter free throws. But the Chicago State University-bound center was assessed with a technical foul right after that — Chappetto said it was a very delayed response to an earlier play — and the J-Hawks’ ensuing charity tosses allowed them to regain some footing.
  Rockford Jefferson wound up going 21-of-31 at the line and outscoring Richards by 10 from there. Meier (15 points) and Listenbee (11 points) were the scoring leaders for the Bulldogs, who continued tournament play this past Monday with matchups against Rockford Lutheran, a Class 2A power, and Belvidere.
***
  Richards’ other outing at Rockford Jefferson presented a more favorable result for the locals, who captured Saturday’s 2 p.m. affair versus Belvidere North by a 71-63 count. The final score was close only because Belvidere drilled seven 3-pointers in the last eight minutes and piled up a total of 31 points.
  “Eighty percent of their offense is 3-point attempts,” Chappetto said. “They were Eisenhower without the trapping defense.”
  Before Belvidere North made its late charge, the Bulldogs were in command. A 26-point second-period explosion was at the heart of Richards’ dominance as Meier (28 points) was virtually unstoppable inside.
  Deon Alexander (13 points), Dedrick Shannon (13) and Thaer Othman (11) also contributed for the Bulldogs, who benefited as well from a 19-8 scoring advantage at the foul line.
Oak Forest 64
Richards 62
  A back-and-forth game leaned the Bengals’ way Friday night, but not officially until the Bulldogs misfired on their final possession. That Richards (12-5, 6-1) was so much in contention was a bit eye-opening, seeing as how Meier was held to four points.
  “It was another frustrating night for Meier,” Chappetto said. “I don’t think our guys were trying to freeze him out. [Oak Forest] had a good game plan.
  “You don’t get to 14-2 and win a Christmas tournament by accident. They’re a legitimately good team — it’s their best team since 1987.”
  Meier was guarded by a 6-foot-9 Bengal, as well as a 6-4 one who played a physical style. The biggest Bulldog only took three shots, but he nevertheless made his presence felt with team highs of eight rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
  Shannon (16 points), Alexander (15), Othman (12) and Spencer Tears (10) picked up the scoring slack, and that was good enough to keep the visitors in the hunt the entire evening.
  In fact, Richards blasted its way into a 24-12 lead in the opening period, doing so on the strength of six 3-point baskets, two of which were delivered by Alexander. He sank another in the second quarter, as did Shannon, but that was to be all of the ’Dogs’ production prior to halftime.
  Richards’ silence enabled the Bengals to climb back into the chase by accruing 16 points of their own in the second frame. At intermission, Oak Forest trailed by just a deuce, 30-28.
  “It was fool’s gold,” Chappetto said of his team’s lead. “At this point, it feels like we’re losing. We didn’t do a good job of adjusting [to the Bengals’ defense against Meier], and I knew we wouldn’t continue hitting 3s like that.”
  Oak Forest opened the third stanza on an 8-0 run, and it was ahead 45-36 when the Bulldogs finally fired back. Field goals by Tears, Shannon and Alexander in quick succession reduced Richards’ deficit and positioned it for a competitive fourth period.
  A series of free throws put the Bengals in control once more, but Othman’s 3-pointer triggered another 8-0 surge by the Bulldogs that muddied the waters again with two minutes to go. When Othman hit a layup, Richards had seemingly gotten back within two, but the bucket was expunged by a traveling call and the Bulldogs’ rally fizzled after that.
  “When you look back at a two-point loss, there’s a lot of things you can point to that you could have done differently,” Chappetto said. “But it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Richards 60
Lemont 56
  Lemont has never been one of Chappetto’s favorite game sites, in large part because his Bulldogs have rarely been at their best while playing there. Last Tuesday’s SSC crossover matchup was no different.
  “I knew that game wasn’t going to be easy,” Chappetto said. “[The Indians] are big and physical and well-suited to their gym. And we’re not as highly explosive as we’ve been — this isn’t 2007, 8 or 9.
  “We were able to get out of there with a win. That’s all we wanted.”
  For a while, Richards looked ready to roll. Othman’s 3-pointer, Shannon’s drive and Jaylen Catledge’s putback gave the Bulldogs a big push out of the third-quarter gate, and the visitors went ahead by 11 points.
  An offensive foul wiped out another Richards bucket, Lemont buried a 3-pointer at the other end and, suddenly, the latter caught fire. The Indians got even at one juncture, but Shannon’s 8-of-10 effort at the free-throw line in the fourth stanza helped the ‘Dogs clinch a hard-fought victory.
  Shannon finished with 23 points and five assists to pace Richards, while Meier backed him with a double-double of 11 points and 14 rebounds. Catledge was also a force for the Bulldogs with 10 points and 12 boards.
  Richards prevailed despite shooting only 31 percent from the floor and committing 21 turnovers.
  “We’re like that right now,” Chappetto said, referring to the Bulldogs’ winning-ugly method. “If [the miscues] aren’t a lot, they’re big as far as when they happen.”

Statistics

Richards 12 15 19 14 - 60
Lemont 11 15 11 19 - 56

Richards Scoring: Shannon 23, Meier 11, Catledge 10, Alexander 7, Tears 4, T. Othman 3, Listenbee 2. Rebounds: Meier 14, Catledge 12. AssistsL Shannon 5.

Richards 24 6 10 22 - 62
Oak Forest 12 16 19 17 - 64

Richards Scoring: Shannon 16, Alexander 15, T. Othman 12, Tears 10, Meier 4, Listenbee 3, Anagnostopolous 2. Rebounds: Meier 8. Assists: Meier 5.

Richards 12 26 16 17 - 71
Belvidere North 8 15 9 31 - 63

Richards Scoring: Meier 28, Alexander 13, Shannon 13, T. Othman 11, Jones 3, Anagnostopolous 2, Hussein 1.

Richards 16 5 12 13 - 46
Rockford Jeffer. 11 14 12 17 - 54

Richards Scoring: Meier 15, Listenbee 11, T. Othman 8, Hussein 7, Shannon 4.