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Boys basketball: Blazing Trojans too much for Griffins

There were moments on Tuesday night when the Lincoln-Way East boys' basketball team appeared to have things moving in the right direction in their nonconference matchup with Bloom.

But then the Blazing Trojans would take things up a notch and the Griffins had no response ultimately falling 50-38 to a highly-touted Bloom squad ranked in the top five of most Chicagoland -based polls in the early going.

"Not only are they a very talented team, they are very well coached team as well," Lincoln-Way East coach Rich Kolimas said. "They were a patient team."

Lincoln-Way East was also without the services of one of their more experienced players in Julian Barr who sat out the game with an ankle injury. Considering the Griffins are already a fairly young team it wasn't surprising to see them wilt under the sometimes relentless pressure provided by the Blazing Trojans defensive attack.

And make no mistake, it was an attack. The Blazing Trojans shut down passing lanes and routinely forced turnovers against an East team that struggled to find opportunities for long stretches when Bloom truly asserted itself defensively.

"We've got a lot of inexperience that we're playing right now," Kolimas said. "They (Bloom) played exceptionally well, they are very quick and they force a lot of turnovers that led to points. It wasn't just that we turned it over, they converted those turnovers into points."

Despite all that, Lincoln-Way East still maintained contact with Bloom (7-0) and trailed by only single digits early in the fourth quarter after a Jhei-R Jones bucket sliced the lead to Bloom to 40-32.

But Bloom's ability to play keepaway kept Lincoln-Way East at arm's length and the successful conversion of fourth quarter free throws by Bloom kept the lead at double digits for the remainder of the contest.

Ealy in the game it looked like the Griffins might have what it took to give the Bloom attack all that they wanted. Back-to-back 3-point goals from Tyler Vaundry late in the first quarter gave Lincoln-Way East a 12-11 lead.

But that good feeling turned out to be short lived. Bloom would score the last eight points of the first quarter and eight more to start the second to claim a commanding 27-12 advantage.

Afolabi Alabi finally ended Lincoln-Way East's lengthy scoring drought that encompassed over 10 minutes of play with a traditional 3-point play at the 2:22 mark of the second quarter, but it would only stop the scoreless string not the woes as it would be the only points the Griffins would score in the second quarter.

Lincoln-Way East started the third quarter in much the same fashion that it started the game and playing with a bit more confidence were able to push the Bloom lead back into single digits after a neat 7-2 scoring run to start the third quarter.

Bloom's response was measured but effective, turning up the defensive pressure to lead to scoring opportunities and a rim rattling dunk from Kevin Vance seemed to inject a bit more energy in to Bloom's step.

"They put us in situations we haven't really been in yet this year," Kolimas said. "A lot of double teams, forcing some guys that don't usually handle the ball that much into handling it and that led to some turnovers. That's a team you're going to hear about down the line."

The sophomore Jones led Lincoln-Way East (3-3) in scoring with 14 points and Tyler Vaundry finished with nine. Bloom's scoring came predominately from three sources as Donovan Newby led with 17 points, largely from the free throw line, Dante Maddox had 13 and Vance added 10.

Not much rest will be had for the Griffins who will enter right back into the fray of upper-echelon teams on Friday as highly-regarded Homewood-Flossmoor is next on the slate. As for Tuesday, Kolimas is hoping his team can recognize what positives can be taken from the loss.

"We're a young team. And we're coming into Bloom to play a very good undefeated team and we outscore them in the second half," Kolimas said. "We saw a lot of good things. We're not going to hang our heads low. We're going to say: what do we learn from this and let's push on."

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