Defense, rebounding key for Prospect in win over Conant
No matter what else, two things Prospect's boys basketball program will always hang its hats on are defense and rebounding.
Especially when all else comes up short, like shooting. Take Tuesday night at Conant, where, in a Mid-Suburban League crossover, the Knights shot 17 of 39 overall and a dismal 3 of 14 on 3-pointers.
But they committed just 7 turnovers and 6 fouls and outrebounded a young Conant team 32-10, pushing the Knights to a hard-fought 48-43 win and a 4-3 record overall.
"Great game on defense, and it was 32-10 on the glass. Robert Lombardo had 13 boards, 8 offensive, and we needed every one of them," said Knights coach John Camardella.
Especially down the stretch. Lombardo had 2 offensive boards that produced a free throw and a hoop for himself in the fourth quarter alone, the putback providing a 41-33 lead halfway through the period.
Conant never recovered, although the young Cougars, with just two seniors on the roster, got within 43-40 on high-scorer Daniel Hong's (10 points) late 3-pointer. But a Matt Woloch drive through traffic and two Chase Larsen free throws with 44 seconds left and Conant (0-6) in pursuit mode sealed the win. Woloch lead all scorers with 16.
Larsen made an even more significant contribution on defense, taking on Conant shooting forward Devon Ellis, a slick scorer who had torched the Knights in a game less than two weeks ago in the St. Viator Thanksgiving Tournament. Along with Matt McAleer, they limited Ellis to an 8-point evening on just 7 shot attempts.
Hong picked up the slack though, hitting a trio of 3-pointers, including a halftime buzzer-beater for a 19-18 Cougar lead, but they couldn't make it stand up.
"We're young. We keep improving each game," said Conant assistant coach Jim Bailey, pinch hitting for head coach Jim Maley, who was home sick. "We need to win one so we know what it feels like."
Tuesday night was a good opportunity against an injury-plagued Prospect team. The Cougars shot 16 of 31 and 8 of 16 on 3-pointers. But foul trouble for team leaders Michael Sheehy and Abaz Karafili limited the Cougars, who got a flurry of 3-pointers off the bench from Ajani Cobb and Tyler Burkland, and threw constantly changing defenses at the Knights, which kept them off stride much of the game. Except for the rebounding, it might have been a different story.
"That a big 'except,' " said Bailey.
For Prospect though, it was finding a way to win. "We're winning games when we're not playing well offensively," Camardella noted.
That's what defense and rebounding are for.