BOYS BASKETBALL: Mid-game run aids Central to conference win over Dwight
CLIFTON — Central coach Brent Offill wasn’t exactly thrilled with how his team performed in the Kankakee Holiday Tournament last week.
So, all week, the Comets worked on rebounding and taking care of the ball leading up to Friday’s game against Dwight.
Although they got out-rebounded 22-21, they won the turnover battle 14-7. They also showed how defensive they can be, as they held Dwight to just seven second-half points in route to a 43-30 victory.
“Defensive, this was a grown-man step for us,” Offill said. “Offensively, we’re still taking baby steps, and that’s fine. That part of the game is still coming around and developing. But the effort and energy they played with tonight was just what we needed.”
Dwight was in full control from the opening tip and started out with an 8-0 lead, thanks to 3-pointers by Logan Graham and Colton Holm.
Central rallied back with seven straight points of its own, five of them from Jay Lemenager, before Dwight’s Cal Schultz buried a triple for an 11-7 lead.
Leading 13-8 going into the second, Dwight went on a 10-3 run that extended its lead to 23-11 with 5:29 left until the break.
“Our intensity level wasn’t there in the beginning,” Offill said. “We started sluggish, and it showed.”
But that’s when everything turned around.
Beginning of the end
Offill called a timeout and delivered this simple message to his team.
“Guys, we’re about to get blown off our home court if we don’t change some things.”
Simple, direct and to the point. It worked.
Behind a 3-pointer and jumper from Jacob Shoven along with a couple of buckets from Darryl Harris, the Comets ended the half on an 11-0 run and trimmed the lead to 23-22 at halftime.
“The guys really responded well,” Offill said. “They flew around, just like I see in practice everyday, and competed. There are times that, when the lights come on, some guys tend to fall back a little bit. But it comes down to just reminding them that they can, and they respond great when you get on them a little.”
Putting the clamps on
With all momentum on Central’s side and the offense finding a rhythm before the half, it was the defense’s turn to pick it up.
And did it ever.
Central’s Kyle Peters connected on a free-throw line jumper to give the Comets their first lead of the game 24-23.
They didn’t trail the rest of the night, but it’s how they did it that makes it more impressive.
Although the points were tough to come by during the eight-minute frame, every point was scored by a player in a Comet uniform.
“Dwight missed a few shots, but our defensive intensity was great,” Offill said. “It also helped that we were in the right spots. It didn’t matter what play or defensive assignment we had; if you were in the right spot, then you had a chance to make a stop.
“We made a couple of adjustments on [Dwight’s] press and got our bigs moving a little bit. Once we did that, Dwight had some trouble getting open looks, and we contested their shots really well.”
Whether it was Lemenager, Shoven, Harris or Peters, the ball continued to fall, and the run continued to grow.
What started out as an 11-0 run doubled into a 22-0 run before Dwight’s Dakota Wahl connected to end the drought, with the Trojans now trailing 33-25.
Although the lead was just eight points, it felt more like 18, as it proved to be too big of a hole for the Trojans to climb out of.
“This was a good win for us, but I still don’t think our kids have bought in just yet,” Offill said. “What I mean by bought in is I don’t think they realize how good they can be. They bought into me as their coach, and I love these guys, but they don’t know how good they can be, and that’s what I have to get out of them.”
Shoven led the Comets with 14 points. Peters and Lemenager each added eight points, and Harris had eight points with eight rebounds.
For Dwight, Dane Rodosky had seven points.
Both teams are back in action Tuesday. Central hosts St. Anne, and Dwight heads to Woodland.