2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 12/29/2017 10:09 PM

Tough small-school field hands CLA two more setbacks

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By Lou Nunez, Jr.
Daily Herald Correspondent

In creating his holiday tournament a couple of years ago, Christian Liberty boys basketball coach and athletic director Jed Bennett wanted to devise a showcase for mostly Class 1A schools in the Chicago area.

"I wanted to give all of those schools a tournament where mainly there's a majority of smaller schools, because you don't see that type of a tournament around here," Bennett said.

The CLA Holiday Shootout completed its third edition Friday evening as Bennett's Chargers dropped a 58-35 decision to North Shore Country Day at Grace Gym in Arlington Heights. Combined with a 61-44 loss to Morgan Park Academy earlier Friday afternoon, it left the Chargers (3-10) with an 0-4 record in the two-day tourney.

The Raiders (6-4) added a 53-43 win over Westminster Christian in Friday's third game to capture second place in the five-team tourney that was won by CICS-Northtown (11-4). The Pumas completed their second straight sweep with victories over Westminster (67-64) and Morgan Park (76-49) to take the first-place trophy back to Chicago's Northwest side.

In their first match of the day, a 21-10 fourth quarter edge allowed the Warriors (2-13) to pull away in a game that was tight through three quarters. All-tournament selection Brent McKnight paced MPA with 20 points followed by Brian Readus' 17 and Elijah Moss' 16.

Senior guard Joel Roberts paced the Chargers with 14, points and 6-5 senior center Steve Ringstrand had 12.

Against North Shore, the third quarter played a large part in deciding the outcome. Trailing the Raiders 27-21 at the break, CLA proceeded to go 0-for-8 from the floor while turning the ball over 6 times. The Chargers' only points in the quarter came from from 5 free throws and left them trailing 37-26 at period's end.

Christian Liberty's final charge came during the first 63 seconds of the fourth, as a Ringstrand hoop inside and a Trevor Jones 3 closed the gap to 39-31.

An 8-0 Raider response over the next 52 seconds resolved matters. Threes from Peter Miles (game-high 23 points) and Mazeed Oluewu (13 points) were sandwiched around a pair of free throws from all-tournament selection Braden Anderson-Tate to put it out of reach.

"Our legs had gone by the third quarter," Bennett said. "You could see the toll that it can take sometimes out of you."

Ringstrand paced the CLA effort versus North Shore with a 16-point, 6-rebound performance. Roberts had 10 points.

Despite going 0-4, Ringstrand and his squadmates see the positives that the format can bring.

"I think it's a good test to play these different types of teams," Ringstrand said. "It is rough to lose, but I feel like we've held up pretty well and we're starting to hit our stride. I'm excited that we'll be at home over these next couple of weeks."

CLA will open the second half of its season with four straight at Grace Gym beginning with a nonconference game versus Westlake Christian of Grayslake on Wednesday evening (a 5:30 p.m. tip).

Bennett looks towards a possible expansion of the tournament field next year.

"I've been getting inquiries," Bennett said. "If we could get to an eight-team field, the format that we're using would still work. It would allow for out-of-area teams to come in where they spend one night over, perhaps two at the most and get some good quality competition against similar-size schools."

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