BOYS BASKETBALL: Boilers best Momence in non-conference clash
BRADLEY — Neither Bradley-Bourbonnais nor visiting Momence had much time to rebound from mentally and physically draining Friday night games.
Less than 24 hours removed from a difficult road loss to Thornton on Friday night, the Boilers recovered to top Momence 76-41 in front of their home crowd.
The Boilers improved to 10-11 with the win, and Momence dropped to 11-12.
“I feel like after the loss, the team took it to heart,” junior guard Deylon Johnson said. “We wanted to come out today, play with heart, energy and emotion and just brush last night off.”
For Momence, Saturday’s game came hours after a thrilling 67-66 win against Central that came on Kobey Mazur’s buzzer-beating layup.
Coach Kevin Ecker said Saturday’s game, which originally was scheduled for Jan. 22 but postponed because of weather, was one the team had circled on its schedule all season. He said despite the mental energy drained against Central, the Redskins had to play better to reach lofty pre-season goals.
“This was a game that our kids were definitely looking forward to the whole season, and that’s part of the reason we kept trying to get it rescheduled,” Ecker said. “The reason it was scheduled in the first place is we had high goals coming into the season, and if we’re fortunate enough to get there to play a team like Corliss again, we have to be ready.
“The mental [fatigue] was there, but we just have to come out and play better.”
The Boilers’ gameplan of defensive pressure was evident early on and executed to near-perfection, as they forced 23 Momence turnovers that created 18 Boilers points.
That defensive charge was led by Johnson, who recorded eight steals.
“The guys hype me up; Coach loves when I play in the passing lanes, so it’s just real fun and energetic,” Johnson said. “I love to get steals, deflections, anything we can do to get a win.”
Offensively, Boilers coach Alex Renchen said the team wanted to continue building on its goal of making extra passes to find easy shots, which they did Saturday, assisting 18-of-31 made baskets.
“That’s something we’re trying to get better at, and today, I thought we did a real good job of that,” Renchen said. “I’m real proud of our unselfishness, and it was a good day, so it always feels good to come out on top.”
Johnson had just as affective of a night on the offensive end as he did defensively. He led the Boilers with 18 points while he was matched up with Momence star Lamarius Lillard.
Johnson said better competition brings out the best in himself, especially when playing against his childhood friend.
“I love playing against better guys,” Johnson said. “Playing against [Lillard], he’s an old friend, so it sparked some energy and a lot of fun.”
Aside from Johnson, the Boilers received steady offensive contributions from Mikal Clarke (13 points), Tyler Webb (12 points) and Jackson Elliott (11 points).
Renchen said he has continued to see marked improvement in Clarke, a sophomore forward, and Elliott, a junior guard.
“Jackson has improved a lot trying to stay within himself than the start of the year,” Renchen said. “Mikal’s just growing; he always plays hard; he hit a couple shots today.
“That’s all we try to do is get our team better and our players better every single day.”
For Momence, Lillard once again paced the way with a game-high 30 points. With his first bucket of the game, he passed his brother, Lamar Lillard, atop the school’s all-time scoring list.
“He was taking the ball to what we felt would be the weak part of their defense, the low post,” Ecker said of the record-breaking forward. “He had a lot of good opportunities and took advantage of them.
“Him breaking the scoring record is a testament to him having some good teammates to put him in the position he’s been in, and he’s taken advantage of those opportunities.”
Both teams are back in action Tuesday. The Boilers travel to Dolton for a SouthWest Suburban Conference tilt with Thornridge. Momence heads to Clifton to take on Paxton-Buckley-Loda in the Sangamon Valley Conference Tournament.