NEW LENOX – When two-thirds of the players on your boys basketball team are juniors or sophomores, it can take awhile for all of the pieces of the puzzle to come together.
That’s pretty much been the story for Lincoln-Way Central so far this season, as it has been competitive in all but one of its games, and that has led them to a 3-3 start.
The Knights outscored Southland College Prep Charter, 22-12, in the third quarter to break open a 30-all halftime tie and then went on to capture a 67-60 nonconference home win.
“They (SCPC) played hard and made some shots,” Knights coach Bob Curran said. “They’re quick, and they might have shot better from the 3-point line than we did, and that kept them in the game. With a lot of sophomores, you can tell that we’re physically weak. We’ve had a bunch of close games, and the more games you have like that the better.
“We have a bunch of multiple-sport kids, so we do not get together in the summer as a group, so that’s always a struggle every year. We’re trying to find chemistry and who should be out there and things like that. But they’re great kids, they work hard, and they have good basketball IQs, so I expect them to keep getting better.”
The Knights used a 12-2 run early in the second half to take a 46-34 lead with 3:58 left in the third quarter. Connor Barry (nine points) made a layup and two free throws, while Joan Buch (11 points) and Mike Maloney (10 points) each hit 3-pointers during that stretch.
After Southland closed to within 46-40, Central scored six straight, as Sean Curran (21 points) made two free throws before and after two free throws from Sean Michalak, and that made it 52-40, Central still owned a 52-42 lead heading into the final eight minutes.
“The close games have been great,” Sean Curran said. “We had four in the Thanksgiving tournament. Homewood-Flossmoor beat us bad, and then we had a close one today, so that’s good because we’re young, and it’s good experience for us. This is a great team, since we all get along and the chemistry is good, and I think we’ll get better as the year goes on.”
To their credit, the Eagles continued to battle in the fourth quarter, closing to within two points on a 3-pointer by Ray’von Houston with 2 minutes left, and they still were down only 63-60 heading into the final minute before Curran and Maloney each hit two free throws to end the scoring. Nick Tingley (eight points) was another one of the Knights’ top scorers.
Southland was led by Wesley Woods (15 points), Emeka Ajaere (12 points), Dwayne Neff (nine points) and Jaylon Barnes (eight points).
After battling in all four of their games in the Joliet West Tournament, the Knights had a tough game against Homewood-Flossmoor last Friday. They’ll open SouthWest Suburban Conference Red Division play on Friday when they travel to Bradley-Bourbonnais.
“We just came out strong in the second [half], and we all played together,” Tingley said. “We started playing together more and put some scoring together, and that helped and just took over from there. We’re a young team so the more that we play together the more that it will help. We have some guys on this team who are good leaders, so we are just trying to play together and are preparing for the future, but also trying to get as many wins as we can.”