Win over Rams nets Bulldogs SSC Red title share
Gaining a piece of the title pie didn’t give Richards coach John Chappetto peace of mind last week.
The veteran leader certainly wasn’t about to refuse the Bulldogs’ share of their latest South Suburban Conference Red crown, their ninth straight. It was guaranteed with a 63-54 win over Reavis on Tuesday.
And when Richards constructed a 34-16 advantage early in the second quarter on Friday against Oak Lawn, it appeared as if an outright conference championship was in the offing. The host Spartans, however, had other ideas.
Oak Lawn narrowed the deficit to five points by halftime, was tied with its guests after three periods and then scored 18 fourth-quarter points to claim a 67-63 victory.
“I was really happy with how we responded after a slow start,” Spartans coach Jason Rhodes said. “[Our] guys just kept playing and did good things.
“We picked up the defense in the second quarter and they missed some shots they had been making earlier. And we were able to play defense without fouling.”
Chappetto had no trouble crediting Oak Lawn (9-14, 4-8) for its resiliency, but he was less enamored with his own club’s performance, particularly since it failed to adequately compensate for center Josh Meier’s absence due to a non-basketball issue. He was especially missed when the Spartans used a box-and-1 defense on Richards guard Dedrick Shannon in the second half.
“A lot of plays are to Josh against the zone,” Chappetto said. “We didn’t move the ball, we missed shots and we fell apart. We were playing them the way we wanted [early on], but we couldn’t put them away.
“Physically and mentally, they’re really a tough team. My team needs to prove to me they can give me what they need to [on a consistent basis].”
Although his squad is guaranteed to finish its season with a winning record regardless of what transpires from here on out, Chappetto doesn’t believe the Bulldogs (15-11, 8-4) have fully tapped into their abilities, their 7-0 opening to the campaign notwithstanding. According to the coach, that rapid break from the gate, in fact, may have actually been somewhat detrimental in the long run.
What made it so was that a chunk of it was accomplished without help from Shannon and Spencer Tears, two projected starters whose arrival was delayed by Richards’ run to the Class 8A football final Thanksgiving weekend.
“Even guys who were playing well in that stretch had trouble accepting their [revised] roles,” Chappetto said. “There’s some jealousies there and I haven’t done a good job of fixing it.
“We were 4-0 before [Shannon and Tears] came back, but against teams that weren’t really ready. That was November -- times change and teams have gotten better.”
Despite Chappetto’s concerns, everything was right in the Bulldogs’ world at the outset versus Oak Lawn. Shannon and Thaer Othman tallied 19 points between them in the first stanza, and Richards exited it in front by 13. An Othman 3-pointer and Shannon bucket to begin the second frame then extended the visitors’ lead to 34-16.
But a turnover and missed shot started the Bulldogs’ unraveling. According to Chappetto, Richards was victimized by “silly plays and bad defense,” and when Ibrahim Samra sank a 3-ball just before the second-period buzzer, the Spartans had climbed to within 40-35.
“At halftime, I had to remind them they were winning,” Chappetto said of his athletes.
For Rhodes and his players, the situation had suddenly become quite promising.
“That [Samra shot] gave us a lot of momentum,” he said. “Guys were a little more confident about what we could do offensively.”
And that confidence wasn’t hurt any when Josh Prince hit two putbacks and Oak Lawn scored layups on a couple of third-quarter run-outs. Shannon’s 3-pointer off the backboard forged a 49-all deadlock after 24 minutes, but that did little to stem the Spartans’ rising tide.
Oak Lawn was ahead by as many as six points during the fourth stanza, but it couldn’t slam the door on Richards until the very end. Deon Alexander’s 3-pointer kept the Bulldogs in the hunt, and the Spartans did themselves no favors by failing to take full advantage of a few trips to the foul line.
“It was a little dicey still because we missed the front end of three 1-and-1s,” Rhodes said.
Mitch Swatek’s pair of charity tosses after an intentional foul gave Oak Lawn a bit more breathing room, then the home team survived a late steal by Tears, which became meaningless when he couldn’t connect at the stripe.
Prince supplied the Spartans with a double-double of 26 points and 12 rebounds to lead the way for them. David Stacy chipped in 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds, and Samra wound up with 11 points, nine of which were delivered on 3-point baskets.
Oak Lawn shot a blistering 58 percent from the floor and had 18 of its 25 field goals result directly from assists. After the first period, the Spartans were guilty of only 11 turnovers.
“Our guys really like playing with each other and we did a great job of moving the ball,” Rhodes said. “If we can continue to take care of the ball, we’ll be fine.
“This same scenario happened [against Richards] in my first year at Oak Lawn. We were shaky with the ball early and then stormed back.”
Shannon racked up a game-high 27 points for the Bulldogs, while Jaylen Catledge and Othman tossed in 12 and 11, respectively. Richards can still win an outright league championship by defeating Eisenhower on Friday.
“It’d be nice [to do that], but nothing’s come easy,” Chappetto said. “At the end of the day, if we finish in a tie, both of us get a trophy and three automatic bids for the all-conference team.”
Following a loss to Shepard the previous Friday that tightened up the SSC Red race, the Bulldogs went without a practice session on Monday due to yet another weather-induced school cancellation.
In retrospect, Chappetto felt the time away might have done his players some good, and when four different ones scored against the Rams in the opening frame on Tuesday, that certainly seemed to be the case. His appeal to his guys probably didn’t hurt, either.
“My pregame speech was pretty passionate, pretty emotional and pretty honest,” Cahppetto said. “Coming out of the Shepard game, we obviously had a bad taste in our mouths that we wanted to get rid of.”
Meier’s absence wasn’t Richards’ only difficulty versus Reavis, however. First-half foul trouble plagued Shannon, Tears, Angelo Anagnostopolous and Meier’s replacement, Marcus Burton.
“You’re already playing without Meier,” Chappetto said. “Now, you’ve got to go even deeper [into the bench].”
Because of that, the Bulldogs were unable to hold onto a double-digit lead in the second quarter and were in front by only four (32-28) at intermission. In the second half, though, Shannon began imposing his will and registered 18 of his team-best 20 points.
He complemented his offense with eight assists, four rebounds and three steals, and Richards overcame rather lackluster 40 percent shooting by limiting the Rams to a 34 percent success rate from the field. Reavis was also forced into 17 turnovers, eight more than were charged to the ‘Dogs.
Shannon was Richards’ lone double-digit man, but five other players netted between six and nine points to give the attack some balance.
Richards 29 11 9 14 - 63
Oak Lawn 16 19 14 18 - 67
Richards Scoring: Shannon 27, Catledge 12, T. Othman 11, Alexander 5, Tears 3, Anagnostopolous 2, Listenbee 2, Cottrell 1.
Oak Lawn Scoring: Prince 26, Stacy 14, Samra 11, Swatek 6, Nelson 4, Cosenza 3, Jones 3. Rebounds: Prince 12, Stacy 6. Assists: Stacy 7.
Reavis 13 15 12 14 - 54
Richards 16 16 13 18 - 63
Richards Scoring: Shannon 20, Anagnostopolous 9, Alexander 8, Catledge 7, T. Othman 7, Tears 6, Cottrell 4, Listenbee 2. Rebounds: Shannon 4. Assists: Shannon 8. Steals: Shannon 3.