HEADLINE: Knights stay the course by chomping Gators
By Ken Karrson
Chicago Christian fans can rest easy that the Knights aren’t basketball’s version of the S.S. Minnow.
When that vessel blew off course back in the 1960s, it never found its way back to civilization, at least not until a made-for-TV movie was produced a decade later. As for Christian, it has emerged from a vortex of inconsistency to chart a steady path toward a conference title.
Nothing is yet guaranteed, but if Friday night’s 46-37 conquest of Guerin Prep was an accurate barometer it’s only a matter of time. The Knights’ third consecutive victory and their fifth in the last seven outings kept them in a first-place tie with longtime rivals Illiana Christian and Timothy Christian in the Metro Suburban Conference East.
Chicago Christian (12-12, 8-2) hosts the Trojans on Friday. Before that it squared off with Elmwood Park in a Tuesday matchup coach Kevin Pittman said absolutely could not be overlooked.
“We’re almost belaboring the point to death -- nothing is going to matter [on Friday] if we don’t get ones in between,” he said. “We’re doing our best to focus on the next game, not the one that’s two or three games away.”
That strategy has been followed in the Knights’ first two contests since downing Illiana to create the aforementioned deadlock at the top. That didn’t mean, though, Pittman was always comfortable with what transpired versus the Gators.
“Guerin is just pesty -- they don’t seem to go away,” he said. “They were never really close enough [for the outcome] to be in doubt, but I was just never able to relax until the time ran out.”
The two teams were tied once in the opening half and Christian trailed 17-16 with 3:35 left in the second quarter before freshman Jack Ellison’s 3-pointer put the hosts in front to stay. Ahead by four at intermission, the Knights began the third period with four quick baskets, two of which were set up by steals from Daylon Washington and Jay Spencer.
Washington (field goal, two free throws) supplied the points in both instances and Trevor Wolterink hit a shot off a nifty pass from Marcus Parker to hand Christian a 31-21 advantage. Wolterink finished as the Knights’ scoring leader with 16 points and also grabbed a team-best 12 rebounds.
Spencer and Washington both tossed in eight, Ellison had six and Bradford Fitzpatrick earned praise for his defense. According to Pittman, the latter “guarded everybody on the floor at some point and did a good job.” Guerin wound up with a field-goal percentage of just 34.
“We took away a little of our gambling on defense -- we want everybody to have to shoot over us or go through us,” Pittman said. “The number of turnovers [caused] has gone down but so have the points we’ve given up. I like that tradeoff.”
Christian’s own accuracy rate languished too but helping to compensate for that was a 31-25 edge on the glass, six more made free throws and only five turnovers.
“All in all, I’m glad we’re not putting pictures [of our performance] in the scorebook, but a win’s a win,” Pittman said. “We need to play in games like that to be prepared [for the playoffs] and know what things to clean up.
“It’s been a while since we played this late in the season with the games meaning something. I’m glad the guys get to go through this.”
Pittman said his guys “fought hard to get back to .500,” and one reason for that is the Knights’ schedule. Starting with the season-opening District 218 Tournament at Thanksgiving, Christian has featured a significant number of bigger schools on its slate.
“We kind of set our schedule up that way on purpose,” Pittman said. “Playing an easier schedule gives you false hope and expectations.”
The Knights’ last league championship was in 2010-11 when they were a member of the Suburban Christian Conference. Back then, however, neither Timothy Christian nor Illiana Christian was part of the mix.
“This kind of reminds me of the old [Private School League] days,” Pittman said. “You beat a team once and it’s hard to beat them again.”
Of course, Pittman hopes his club bucks that trend seeing as how it already owns one win against the Trojans.
Chicago Christian 46
Guerin Prep 37
Chicago Christian Scoring: Wolterink 16, Spencer 8, Washington 8, Ellison 6, Fitzpatrick 5, Parker 3. Rebounds: Wolterink 12. Assists: Fitzpatrick 3, Parker 3.