Class 4A Thornton Regional
End of the line
Bulldogs, Chargers advance but fall on 2nd day
By Ken Karrson
On Day 1 they won
On Day 2 they were both through.
Unlike many area basketball teams, neither Richards nor Stagg lived a one-and-done existence last week. The Bulldogs advanced to the next round of the Class 4A Thornton Regional by beating South Suburban Conference Red and neighborhood rival Oak Lawn for the second time this season, 47-42, on Monday, the same day the Chargers crushed Kennedy 84-47.
But a couple of storied programs prevented the two locals from going any further. Host Thornton brought Richards’ season to a close on Tuesday by handing down a 65-42 defeat while Stagg was sent to the sidelines one night later by fellow SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue member Homewood-Flossmoor, which completed a three-game season sweep of the Chargers with a 66-50 verdict.
For Bulldogs coach Jevon Mamon, who guided Richards to a 14-14 mark in his initial season at the helm, there was no shame in coming up shy against the Wildcats, who lost to H-F in Friday’s title clash.
“I have no beef with how we went out,” Mamon said. “If we had to go down, I wanted it to be fighting and clawing and I felt we competed to the best of our ability. I’m proud of the guys for being able to do that. It showed a lot of character.”
Having basically no time to prepare for Thornton certainly didn’t help the Bulldogs. What made the Wildcats an especially tough opponent was their balance -- five players scored between eight and 10 points and two of them, Robert McCalley and D’Quan Applewhite, combined to gather in a dozen rebounds. Jaylan Catledge (15 points, seven rebounds) and Carlos Draper (nine points on 4-of-6 shooting) were the Bulldogs’ biggest counters to Thornton’s quintet.
The Wildcats nailed six first-half 3s and thrust Richards into an early 12-point hole. Thornton ended the game with a 46 percent accuracy rate that was significantly better than the ‘Dogs’ field-goal percentage of 30.
“We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well [and] we were never able to make a true threat by getting within eight or nine [after halftime],” Mamon said. “They’re a good team that brought forth a really good team effort for 32 minutes.
“There weren’t one or two guys you look to key in on when you play Thornton. Everyone is able to bring something to the table for them. When you’re facing a team that good, it makes it difficult [to succeed].”
And because of the Wildcats’ depth of talent Mamon told his players, “You definitely don’t have anything to hang your heads about.” That was also the coach’s sentiment about the season as a whole.
“We had a lot of [personnel] turnover and not much experience coming back, but I think it was a good building block and a pretty good start to what we want to do [as a program],” Mamon said.
Oak Lawn 42
The only good start to last Monday’s contest was delivered by the Spartans, who netted 13 of the game’s first 14 points. According to Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes, the Spartans “were getting anything we wanted.”
“I don’t think they came out with a lot of fire,” he said of the Bulldogs, “and I thought our effort was really good. Our guys battled like they have done all year. We could have been up 21-5, and if we had gotten a 15- or 16-point lead I don’t know if [Richards] would have responded.”
But the Spartans’ edge was down to 15-9 by the end of the first quarter, thanks to their misses on two point-blank shots, an Oak Lawn turnover that led to a Bulldogs layup and a running 3-pointer that closed out the period for Richards on a positive note.
“We gave them life,” Rhodes said.
And the Bulldogs didn’t waste it. With Catledge as its catalyst, Richards fought back and was tied with the Spartans (9-18) at 37-all. The sophomore, who burned Oak Lawn for 36 points less than two weeks before, wound up with 26 here on 10-of-18 shooting and 13 rebounds.
Catledge stepped forward at crunch time to supply Richards with eight of its last 10 points. Kush Baxter provided the other two on free throws that gave the Bulldogs a five-point cushion and allowed them to withstand a final 3-pointer by the Spartans.
“Jaylan Catledge literally willed us to that win,” Mamon said. “We did a heck of a lot of scoring inside with him. Oak Lawn zoned us the whole game, looked to slow us down and control the pace, but we were able to get it done [behind Catledge].”
Rhodes recalled one fourth-quarter play where the Spartans seemingly had Catledge cornered, only to watch him “somehow slither through the trap and put one up off the glass."
“He’s got great body control and he is tough,” Rhodes said.
Oak Lawn posted a better field-goal percentage than Richards (46-39), but the Bulldogs benefited from 13 offensive rebounds. They tallied 16 points either on second chances or fast breaks while the Spartans had just two of those.
“This was no different than a lot of games this year -- we had trouble scoring the easy baskets all year long,” Rhodes said. “Even when we pressed and got turnovers, it was hard for us to score off those.”
Josh Prince had a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds for Oak Lawn while Jimmy Wiltzius pitched in with 11 points and five assists. The latter played all 32 minutes.
Despite the Spartans’ occasional lapses Mamon felt good about the Bulldogs’ ability to notch a second win over them.
“Oak Lawn played a pretty solid game,” he said. “I felt like it wouldn’t be the same [type of] game as we played a week-and-a-half before and we hammered it [into our players] pretty well, but our youthfulness settled in for a while.”
Mamon wasn’t alone in believing the Spartans performed admirably.
“I think our team improved a ton from the beginning of the year to the end,” Rhodes said. “We were a work in progress all year long, but our guys really got tighter. We played with a lot more toughness and grit defensively and we got much better [at] moving the ball and sharing it.”
Already owning two sizable victories over the Chargers this season, the Vikings appeared to be doing business as usual when they constructed a 15-point lead on Stagg in the second quarter last Wednesday.
“Everybody thought it was going to be the same thing [as before],” Chargers coach John Daniels said.
But it wasn’t. Although the final score leaned heavily in H-F’s direction, that didn’t occur without some anxious moments. Stagg (13-17) shaved its large deficit down to almost nothing with a 13-point spurt that bled into the third period. Jeff Goral’s two 3s -- part of a 6-of-9 exhibition from long distance by the senior -- sparked the assault and the Chargers were within six with 5 ½ minutes to go in the game.
And then the Vikings pulled the ball out and slowed the tempo. Stagg was eventually forced to foul and H-F used a series of free throws to hang on.
“We just weren’t big enough,” Daniels said. “That was a weakness all year and it hurt us in this game.”
The Vikings included 15 offensive boards among their 37 rebounds, a total that eclipsed the Chargers’ by 10. Stagg pretty much matched H-F’s shooting percentage, but the former was hurt by 18 turnovers and the fact it attempted 20 fewer free throws.
So how come the Chargers didn’t get steamrolled like they had before?
“We had Goral -- that was the big difference,” Daniels said. “He carried us on his back. It was one of the best games I’ve seen him play. There’s no doubt he’s our team MVP.”
Goral poured in 26 points even though the Vikings “were tagging him and every time he drove he had length on him.” In addition to his scoring, Goral had six rebounds, two assists and two steals. His main sidekick was sophomore Josh Strama, who finished with 14 points and eight boards.
Leading H-F was Destin Barnes, who tallied a game-high 32 points. Terrance Bradley added 14. Daniels praised Vikings coach Marc Condotti for what H-F has accomplished to date.
“They’re better than us and they’re going to be a tough team to put out [of the tournament],” Daniels said. “Condotti’s done a tremendous job. He’s a very good coach and he’s put his stamp on his team. He deserves a lot of credit.”
Daniels’ work with Stagg wasn’t too shabby either. Despite having two sophomores play prominent roles and carrying five of them on the roster, the Chargers won 10 of their final 16 games.
The last of those 10 victories was logged against the Crusaders last Monday. Five 3-point baskets kept Kennedy even with Stagg through one quarter, but the Chargers gradually imposed their will on an opponent to whom defense was not a priority.
“They didn’t guard anybody -- we could have put up 100,” said Daniels, who instructed his athletes to not even shoot for the last chunk of the fourth quarter. “I’ve never been in this position before. I’ve never beaten anybody like this.
“They came out and just jacked it. They were taking shots from 26, 28 feet. We told our players, ‘Make them drive and [you] take a charge.’”
Goral was on the floor for only about 20 minutes, but that was enough time to generate 22 points. John Contant (13 points, seven assists), Joe Zaremba (11 points), Brett Stratinsky (10) and Strama (seven points, six rebounds, five assists) were other key figures for Stagg, which had 11 guys in all reach the scoring column.
Tom Kazanecki tossed in eight points to further aid the Chargers’ offense and Josh Sterling pulled down a team-best seven rebounds.
Oak Lawn 42
Richards Scoring: Catledge 26, Hussein 7. Rebounds: Catledge 13.
Oak Lawn Scoring: Prince 16, Wiltzius 11, Cosenza 5, Alshaikh 4, Khater 2, Nelson 2, Smith 2. Rebounds: Prince 11. Assists: Wiltzius 5.
Richards Scoring: Catledge 15, Draper 9. Rebounds: Catledge 7.
Stagg Scoring: Goral 26, Strama 14, Worst 7, Stratinsky 2, Contant 1. Rebounds: Strama 8, Goral 6. Assists: Goral 2. Steals: Goral 2.
Stagg Scoring: Goral 22, Contant 13, Zaremba 11, Stratinsky 10, Kazanecki 8, Strama 7, McMahon 5, Liput 3, Kosch 2, Sterling 2, Mohan 1. Rebounds: Sterling 7, Strama 6. Assists: Contant 7, Strama 5.