Kaneland continues improvement in win over Sandwich
Jamari Meeks may be less than a month into his varsity career, but he's already opening eyes around Kaneland.
To Kaneland senior forward Bryce Ebert, Meeks, only a junior, brings a "very high intensity" to practice.
It's beginning to translate into games, as Kaneland's convincing 69-32 win over Sandwich helped illustrate.
Meeks scored six of his 13 points in the first quarter. Meeks, though, chooses to focus more on his impact defensively.
"Teammates make it easier," Meeks said. "I just like playing along with them...defense creates offense, so that's how I usually get most of my points."
Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe notices Meeks' confidence.
"He's worked hard at his game," Colombe said. "All these guys are working hard in the weight room during the day. Jamari's a confident kid and he's super athletic. He can lock people down defensively."
Kaneland (4-2, 3-0) was coming off a 75-45 win over Ottawa on Wednesday. Will Cushman, Brett David and Meeks combined for 39 points in that game.
On Friday, Cushman finished with 13 points and 3 rebounds. Ebert had 11 points and 5 rebounds, while Ben Durbala had 8 points and 3 rebounds.
Sandwich, working through injuries and overall varsity inexperience, limped to a 43-16 halftime deficit. The Indians shot just 1-for-11 in the first quarter and 3-for-12 in the second quarter to complement 15 first half turnovers.
Sandwich didn't record its first field goal, a layup by Ian Kelson, until eight seconds left in the first quarter.
The Indians (0-8) look much different than a year ago. They graduated all five starters and six of their top seven players. To add to the difficulties, Sandwich's top returning player, Rex Avery, tore his ACL last summer.
On the positive end, Sandwich recently returned point guard Cade Miller this week from a meniscus injury. Miller, with just three varsity practices under his belt this season, returned against Morris Tuesday, a double overtime loss.
Miller had 8 points and 4 rebounds in his return to pace Sandwich.
"A lot of inexperience, even with those guys all coming back," Sandwich coach Jim Braddish said. "We've got a lot of guys that just haven't played varsity basketball before.
"In these kinds of situations, where you play a good team who is physical and gets up into you like [Kaneland does], we've had a hard time with that. We've had a real hard with the pressure, the physicality of it."
Ebert, a varsity returner from last year, is helping lead a bit of a surge for the Knights early on. In Kaneland's two losses this season -- by a combined five points -- Ebert missed both due to illness.
"We were right in those games; we thought we had a shot to win both of those games," Colombe said.
Colombe noted the Knights have cut down on turnovers in the last few games.
"We started the season, I think, turning the ball over 20 times a game," Colombe said. "In the last two games, we've cut that down to under 10."