No more Spartan(s) existence
Rhodes’ former team ousts current one from playoffs
Something old met something new last Monday, and Jason Rhodes and his Oak Lawn players wound up feeling blue because of it.
Rhodes’ former program, Kenwood Academy, was the Spartans’ initial foe in their own Class 4A regional and he admitted the experience was “a little strange,” even though things have changed since Rhodes departed the Chicago school.
“I’m two coaches removed from the guy who’s there now,” he said. “The last group of kids I knew real well graduated last year. The one thing they’re doing is they’ve gone to more of a read-and-react offense, which is kind of similar stylistically to ours.”
Similarities were evident on the scoreboard, too, as the Broncos and Oak Lawn needed an overtime period to decide a winner. But after Josh Prince’s free throw pulled the Spartans even at the end of regulation, they could not score anymore.
Kenwood didn’t exactly go on an offensive spree in OT, either, but its one field goal and six foul shots were enough to secure a 66-58 win for it.
“I actually felt we had the game in hand with over a minute to play [in the fourth quarter],” Rhodes said.
Oak Lawn (11-15) was ahead by a deuce and had possession of the ball at that juncture, but instead of milking time off the clock and not shooting until a high-percentage opportunity presented itself, the Spartans launched an ill-advised 3-pointer. That shot missed and the Spartans needed Prince’s charity toss to avoid falling short in just 32 minutes.
“Our shot selection I wasn’t real happy with the whole game and we missed some chippies [in overtime] we had been making,” Rhodes said. “We didn’t do a good job pursuing the ball [on defense]. We got beat to a lot of balls and left some plays out there on the floor.
“I was concerned about the matchups going in and that kind of got borne out as the game played out. They almost always had one more athlete on the floor [than we did].”
Oak Lawn burned the Broncos for 10 3-point buckets, which Rhodes certainly didn’t mind. He was, however, not pleased to see the Spartans unload 28 shots from beyond the arc to make that happen. Overall, they posted a field-goal percentage of only 35.
Kenwood’s was just 36, but the visitors made greater headway at the foul line as they outscored Oak Lawn by six from there. The Broncos also held a 43-36 rebounding edge, with a baker’s dozen worth of those boards being collected on the offensive side.
For the third consecutive time, Mitch Swatek paced the Spartans as he garnered 15 points. He also snared a team-best 11 rebounds. Prince was right behind him with 12 points and nine rebounds, and three other Oak Lawn players scored at least eight points.
One of those individuals was David Stacy, who did so on sub-par 3-of-12 marksmanship. He did manage to make an impact in other ways, as he also registered seven rebounds, five assists and a pair of steals.
Falling short on their home court has not been a flaw in the Spartans’ operation, particularly of late, but this contest wasn’t a typical one.
“It was an odd game,” Rhodes said. “We didn’t have school that day and it was a 6 o’clock game, so the crowd wasn’t what they have been and what we’ve gotten used to.”
Nevertheless, Rhodes also labeled it “a fun game except for the outcome,” and he thought Oak Lawn had made considerable progress during the second half of the season. He cited the insertion of Stacy into the point-guard position as a key ingredient in the revival, which began in late January.
“We were 7-3 in our last 10 games before the regional,” Rhodes said. “I’ll take that.”
Kenwood Academy 16 15 14 13 8 - 66
Oak Lawn 12 21 10 15 0 - 58
Oak Lawn Scoring: Swatek 15, Prince 12, Cosenza 9, Samra 8, Stacy 8. Rebounds: Swatek 11, Prince 9, Stacy 7. Assists: Stacy 5.