JOLIET – When two boys basketball teams that have played well defensively, but had their struggles on offense, meet up, it can be be a frustrating evening for both.
That was pretty much the case for Joliet Central and Lincoln-Way East in Tuesday’s nonconference game at Steelmen Gym.
The first half resembled a throwback game in the historic gym, as the Steelmen held a 15-9 advantage at halftime. After Central expanded its lead to 15 points early in the fourth quarter, the Griffins were able to get to within six before dropping a 40-31 decision.
“You’ve got to give them a lot of credit since they were playing without one of their best players [Julian Barr], who’s injured, and they’re doing a nice job of sharing the basketball,” Steelmen coach Lawrence Thompson Jr. said. “They were changing up defenses and trying to get in our kids’ heads, and I think it was effective at times. Our guys couldn’t decide whether to drive or shoot, but that’s all part of the game.
“But the thing that I’m still proud of is the fact that we are playing halfway decent defense and making it tough for teams to score. We just have to keep the same type of confidence and intensity on the offensive end. We had eight or nine kids today with two or three minutes at a time in order to try to give us some offensive confidence. But it takes awhile to get a new group of kids to play well together on offense. It’s easy for a coach to get them to play defense together if they’re willing to do it. But some of that was also caused by Lincoln-Way East.”
The Steelmen (5-2) used 3-pointers from Keaton Gregory (eight points) and Dakoda Joachim (15 points, seven rebounds) and two baskets from Kendrick Williams (six points, six rebounds) to grab a 10-2 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Griffins (3-5) used a 3-pointer and a layup from Ty Slager to pull to within 15-9 at the intermission. Slager, playing in just his second game of the season, scored a team high 12 points.
At one point early in the third quarter, the Griffins had as many turnovers as points, at nine each. The Steelmen continued to build their lead and Joachim made two layups to close out the quarter and give the hosts a 28-17 cushion.
“Coach tells us to execute, so that’s what we did down the stretch,” said Joachim, who led all scorers. “In the Romeoville game, they came back against us, but this time we kept our composure, and we fought for this win. We work very hard defensively and, that’s what we focus on in practice, and we showed that today. We just have to execute on offense. We’re all starting to come together. At first we were struggling to come together, but are working on our chemistry. Last year’s team had chemistry, and that’s what we’re working on.”
East used a 9-0 run in the fourth quarter to close to within 32-26 with 3:37 left with Nate Seputis (eight points) making two baskets. A layup by Jhei-R Jones (six points) with 2:35 remaining made it 34-28, but the Griffins misfired on four shots on one possession with just over a minute left. Khalid Griffin (seven points) was another scoring leader for the Steelmen.
“I felt that we had some good looks in the first quarter, and those shots did not fall, so we got down, and we were scrambling,” Griffins coach Rich Kolimas said. “They were taking time off the clock with their deliberate offense, and we were frustrated and we’re shooting it too quickly, and the pace was in their favor, and they kept us off-balance. It took a lot of energy to come back and we didn’t have a lot of offensive power, but Slager came off the bench and gave us a nice surge. Larry’s a good coach and his guys did a good job.”