Keeping Up with the Joneses - Part 3: Let the Games Begin!

November 24

Game 1 - North Side College Prep Tournament @ Jones
Jones 61, Chicago Academy 29
Leading scorers: Ellington, Devin, Will and Chidi all with 10 points

The score looks like we played well, but we shot the ball poorly (0-9 from the 3 point line) and missed a lot of layups. In our man defense we trapped all over the court. The problem was we hadn't practiced trapping with that defense, only with our presses, and a more experienced team would have made us pay for the mistakes we were making. We were leaving the basket unprotected with indiscriminate forays to trap. Adrien looked lost in his first varsity game. He started shooting runners a la Derrick Rose, and he had never done that in practice. Plus he looked rattled trying to run our offense at the point. We did show excellent intensity defensively and shared the ball, and the reserves got a lot of playing time. Coach G was upset with our offensive execution and random trapping. He expects a much better game from the team tomorrow. 

November 25

Game 2 – North Side College Prep Tournament @ Jones
Jones 66, Sullivan 35
Leading scorers: Chidi 16, Bryson 16, Ellington 8

We did play better, in the second half. Our defense shut Sullivan down in the third quarter by playing sound fundamentally with tenacity. In the first half we missed uncontested layups again and our shot selection was poor in the half court sets. We finally hit two 3-pointers (both by Bryson) but we were 2-9 for the game. That's 2-18 for two games against weaker competition. We've hit over 60% of our 2-point shots. Being around Coach G a long time, I know that he'll emphasize shooting 2's in practice tomorrow. Adrien looked lost again and was benched for awhile so he could see what we were doing with our offenses. He shot and missed those runners again. Ugh! He was better defensively in the second half and we could tell he was getting more comfortable with his team. We will need his leadership. 

November 26

The staff talked and worked with the team on trapping off the man-to-man, especially from under the basket, reviewed our presses and worked on improving shot selection and understanding what was a good shot for every player. We stopped practice at times to stress the importance of good shots. We ran through the out of bounds plays and shot free throws (We shot below 50% in the first two games - Double Ugh!) and ended practice. Coach G is going to give these guys a day off tomorrow because of playing consecutive days and a tough practice, so we will see them Friday to prepare for Payton.

November 28

Payton plays a slowdown game so we worked on trying to intensify our defense, starting with ball pressure on the point guard by Adrien. Payton's point guard is their best player, so if we can wear him down we can be successful. Adrien practiced well so he could be ready for his breakout game. 

November 29

Game 3 - North Side College Prep Tournament @ NSCP
Jones 54, Payton 35
Leading scorers: Chidi 14, Will 10

Our defense dominated this game. Adrien had his breakout defensive game. He frustrated Payton's point guard with his quickness and relentless play and the kid fouled out in the middle of the third quarter. Ellington was everywhere defensively and led the team in steals and rebounds. Chidi played hard as usual and finished well at the rim for layups. When we are going well we share the ball without using the dribble much in the half court. Coaches love that. Plus Adrien showed that he is an excellent open court passer which led to easy scores. Every team needs that but especially this team since we shoot 3's so poorly (just 4-27 in three games). It was a nice win because we played better, especially after half time, which has been a positive trend in our first three games.

December 1

We reviewed the Payton game during practice, focusing on what we did well and what we needed to work on. We did a lot of shooting, including mid-range 2's, 3-pointers, and free throws. We have not shot well so it's something we'll continue to try to improve. Poor free throwing is especially bothersome because it will hurt us in close games. It is tough to make kids realize how important making free throws are because to them it's not the glamorous part of basketball, but it is so essential to the success of a team. We preach having a routine at the line, being balanced, and relaxed concentration on the target with follow through, but we've been abysmal since last season. We have to stick with it. Maybe they'll get it one day. We also worked on press and press breaks. The next team we play does a lot of pressing. 

December 3

Game 4 – North Side College Prep Tournament @ Jones
Jones 67, Steinmetz 63
Leading scorers: Chidi 16, Devin and Adrien 15, Bryson 12

Interesting game, definitely competitive. We had our usual sluggish first half with Devin being the only player that produced any offense with some tough shots made in traffic. Steinmetz made us pay for our lackadaisical play with aggressive full-court defense and a hot shooter that our defense couldn't seem to find. We talked at half time about identifying the shooter and executing the press break and offense because we had too many turnovers that they turned into points.

At the start of the third quarter, we continued to make mistakes and went down by seven points. But we finally started to execute and compete, which led to a 9-0 run and put us in the lead. Adrien was the key. He hit 3's, he was fearless driving to the basket, and he hit his free throws. He also played great defense on the ball, which led to layups by Chidi and Bryson. Bryson also hit a couple of key 3's which helped give us an 11-point lead with less than a minute to go.

Coach G thought it was time to let the reserves play, but Steinmetz still had their regulars in and scored 7 points in 20 seconds due to turnovers and fouls so G had to put our starters back in to finish the game. The reserves that thought they should be playing got a rude awakening of how good they are. We are on to the championship at North Side Saturday against the host team. Definitely a challenge but everyone is looking forward to it.

December 5  

We had our best practice of the year. The starters Bryson, Ellington, Devin, Chidi, and Adrien dominated play. Justin was also excellent defensively when he played with the first team. The passing was sharp and crisp and everyone was involved in the offense. The help on defense was a joy to watch, as it led to stops, blocks, and steals. Coach G was pleased with our progress. I felt bad for the reserves, but a lot of them haven't put the time in to improve and we definitely saw that today. We are ready for the championship game!

December 6  

Game 5 - North Side College Prep Championship Game @ NSCP
Jones 52, NSCP 33
Leading scorers: Ellington and Adrien 9, Will and Chidi 8

We dominated this game from the start on the defensive end. Ellington shut down their top scorer until he hurt his ankle in the third quarter and Adrien made their outside shooter work hard for everything. We were up by seven at the half and then turned up the defensive intensity and they didn't score until there was four seconds left in the third quarter. By that time we were up 25 and cruised in the fourth. Our defense created our offense with double digits steals and lots of stops and run outs in the second half. Ellington, Chidi, and Adrien made the All-tournament team. An impressive performance! Kudos to Coach G and the players. On to the conference season!

NEXT WEEK - Part 4: The Dog Days of December