HEADLINE: Denied, but not downtrodden
SUBHEAD: After falling to Rams, Bulldogs bounce Spartans
By Ken Karrson
There was no perfect 10, or even an imperfect one, awaiting Richards this season.
Extending their string of consecutive conference championships to 10 was going to require the Bulldogs to seek plenty of outside help. A series of early losses in South Suburban Conference crossover games saw to that, and they did themselves no favor by dropping a Red Division decision to Argo.
So a clean sweep through the remainder of the league schedule was a must, as was the need for someone else to derail front-running Eisenhower, which held a two-game lead over Richards heading into last week’s action. Shepard didn’t do it on Tuesday, and when the Bulldogs ran afoul of Reavis that same night their championship quest was officially denied.
“Obviously it was frustrating to us,” Richards coach Jevon Mamon said of his club’s 65-57 loss to the Rams. “We put together a solid [second] half. We kind of came alive, but it came too late [to save us].”
What the Bulldogs’ later noisemaking did accomplish, however, was to put them in the proper frame of mind to face cross-town rival Oak Lawn Friday night. With sophomore Jaylen Catledge assuming one-man-gang status by producing a monster across-the-board stats line, Richards bounced back from the loss to Reavis to hand out a 63-50 setback to the Spartans.
“My approach as a coach was to put Tuesday night’s game in the past,” Mamon said. “We watched film so we could use it as a learning tool, but our attention was on how to send out the seniors [in their last home game]. We wanted the seniors to go out on a high note. Obviously emotions are high [against Oak Lawn] and it was just a great night.”
That was so for all the Bulldogs, but Catledge was transcendent. He finished with 36 points on 14-of-16 shooting, eight rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block.
“He has an opportunity to be a special player,” Mamon said. “I was really, really impressed with Jaylen. He was dominant Friday night and he’s obviously been a huge boost to us.”
Mamon wasn’t the only guy whose eyes were opened by Catledge’s handiwork.
“He was the story of the game -- he put them on his back,” Spartans coach Jason Rhodes said. “I was blown away by how he played. It was just a monstrous game.
“We were throwing two guys at him in the second half, but we had no answer. He was getting to the rack or [grabbing] offensive rebounds and he was finishing through contact.”
Catledge’s explosive display, plus clutch work from Lucas White (nine points on 4-of-4 shooting) allowed Richards (13-12, 6-6) to deflate Oak Lawn’s plan to gum up the Bulldogs’ attack by trying to keep the ball away from Ameen Hussein as much as possible. Richards was ahead by 11 (36-25) at halftime and managed to maintain space between itself and Oak Lawn throughout the second half.
“[Reavis] served as a wake-up call that [a win’s] not going to just be given to you,” said Mamon, whose team shot 57 percent, held Oak Lawn to 36 percent accuracy and forced 16 turnovers while committing only nine itself.
“You’ve got to earn it. I think it was huge [to come back strong].”
By beating the Spartans, the Bulldogs regained some emotional juice, which certainly will be beneficial to have on Friday when they close out the regular season at Eisenhower. The two District 218 rivals will be playing at a Cure For Cancer event, but that’s not the only motivational source into which Mamon plans to tap.
He’ll also remind his athletes of a lopsided defeat handed down by the Cardinals during Thanksgiving tournament play in November.
“We haven’t forgotten what they did to us,” Mamon said. “Emotionally, I want our guys to play with that chip on their shoulder.”
Oak Lawn (9-15, 3-9), which received double-digit scoring from Josh Prince (13 points, five rebounds), Odeh Alshaikh (12 points, five rebounds, two assists) and Jimmy Wiltzius (10 points) versus Richards, visits Evergreen Park in a regular-season finale on Friday. The Spartans hosted Lindblom this past Monday and Rhodes hoped to see an increase in intensity right away.
“They came out with a lot of energy,” he said of the Bulldogs on Friday. “They were more engaged than we were, which was disappointing. We’re not good enough to play without an edge.
“I didn’t feel like many of our guys took on the challenge of defending who they were assigned and there were several times where it didn’t appear we knew what we were doing, which was inexcusable. I don’t know what exactly to attribute it to -- I thought we were past all that.”
Mamon thought the Bulldogs were missing some of those same ingredients for portions of last Tuesday’s SSC Red clash with the Rams. While Catledge (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Hussein (19 points) presented Richards with a solid 1-2 punch, Reavis countered with a duo that amassed 55 combined points, many of them coming on high-percentage shots that Mamon had hoped to limit the Rams from taking.
“If you want to account for certain things and win games, you have to pay attention to details,” he said. “We didn’t stick to our game plan or communicate well and it came back to hurt us.
“We felt they were a drive-first team [with] attack-the-rim type players, so we looked to zone them up. But they were still able to get a lot around the rim. Offensively, we took a lot of quick shots -- one-and-out [possessions] wasn’t what we wanted to do.”
Reavis was ahead by only three after one period, but the lead grew dramatically by halftime and the Bulldogs had a lot of ground to make up over the last 16 minutes. While headway was made, the energy required to do so eventually took a toll on Richards.
Oak Lawn 50
Richards Scoring: Catledge 36, White 9. Rebounds: Catledge 8.
Oak Lawn Scoring: Prince 13, Alshaikh 12, Wiltzius 10, Cosenza 9, Nelson 4, Khater 2. Rebounds: Khater 7. Assists: Alsaikh 2, Khater 2.
Richards Scoring: Catledge 21, Hussein 19. Rebounds: Catledge 10.