Keeping Up with the Joneses: Part 8 - Final Days of February

February 15    ️

Double Bubble Shootout at North Side College Prep
Jones 62, Latin 57
Leading scorers: Ellington 18, Bryson 13, Gabe 13
Record 19-5

I never made it to this game, I got caught in a traffic jam on the highway caused by a 38 car accident in the opposite direction. According to Coach G, we persevered despite several of our players showing up late because of the traffic problems.

Ellington dominated the game and Gabe got hot in the second half after refusing to shoot in the first half. Bryson gave the offense a spark and we played enough defense to win. Coach said Latin had a real good player and had him running off double screens and getting great looks. Not until the end of the game did we get some stops because according to the Latin coach, "your quickness wore us down." First time we heard that this year, so it sounded good.

It is always nice to win a game when your team is invited to an event, because you always want to be invited back and for that to happen you have to play well, which Coach said we did.

February 17 

We practiced poorly today. We had a day off yesterday because of a school holiday and we lacked passion and concentration no matter what we tried to do. Ellington didn't show up because of a scholarship commitment.

We play Taft at home tomorrow and though we beat them in the Christmas tournament they have their best player back and he's big and talented. Taft smoked us last year and though they've only won three games, they play in the top conference in the North section of CPL. Coach G calls them a physical team. I call them dirty. If our players aren't ready it could get ugly in a lot of ways tomorrow. We need to use our quickness and not get sucked in to their style of ball.

February 18   

Non-conference game vs Taft at Jones
Jones 63, Taft 49
Leading scorers: Ellington 20, Will 12
Record 20-5

Like I always say, "the more you know the less you know." We had our worst practice of the year yesterday and looked like we were content to call it a season and then we played our best first quarter of the year today.

It was 12-0 early, 22-6 after one and 30-13 at the half. We had the lead up to 25 before Coach G pulled the starters. Ellington dominated the game in all facets. He scored the first 8 points of the game, broke their traps and full court pressure, rebounded in traffic, and had great assists both in the half court and floor length. He did this in only 2 1/2 quarters as Coach liberally substituted. If Ellington ever had the desire to be great he could be an excellent contributor to a college program, but he has a lot of interests and doesn't seem to want to put in the time to elevate his game. He doesn't have a jump shot and his free throw percentage is around 50%.

Our team defense was awesome for most of the game. Taft runs their offense through high screens and we have a lot of same size guys so we talked and switched on everything rather than trying to fight through because their screeners didn't look to shoot if the cutters didn't get the ball. Plus we made them start their offense much higher than they wanted because our guys put great pressure on the ball.

As expected they started holding, grabbing, pushing, and bodying. And as the game got out of hand they resorted to blocking and dirty tricks that if I were playing I would have done something about it. Finally the dirtiest of all their players tried to take out Chidi on a layup and he got the worst of it and got hurt. As Will said on the bench "the irony of it all." When would you ever hear a quote like that from any team but ours? Love these guys.

Winning 20 games is a tremendous accomplishment for our guys. We don't shoot from outside or free throws very well and we are too undersized to be a decent rebounding team, but we play great defense, especially when Chidi plays. This was his first start since he severely injured his ankle and his defensive intensity rubs off on every starter and they play with impressive synergy and desire.

We have no school tomorrow because of severe cold weather so we will only have two practice days before we play Lane Tech, a very tough team, on senior night Monday.

February 23 

Non conference game, Senior Night
Jones 56, Lane Tech 47 (OT)
Leading scorers: Ellington and Chidi 16, Adrien 15
Record 21-5

This game was a big win, the best of the season. Lane Tech has the largest high school enrollment in Chicago and plays in the top conference of the North division. They looked great in warmups, hitting jumpers and looking big and athletic. We started five of our seniors on senior night and they held their own in the first quarter, and we were tied at 12 after one. We substituted Adrien and Will in the second quarter and they seemed out of sync, especially on offense and we started turning the ball over and we were lucky to be down only 5 at the half.

Our only points in the quarter were an Adrien 3. We were out of position constantly and played very scared and tentative. A probable factor was the packed gym. We had the biggest crowd of the year because of the seniors, our last home game and Lane had a lot of fans there.

The second half started like the first ended. We couldn't get anything going because of poor alignment and probably not running the right offense against their denial man-to-man. Though we seemingly couldn't score our defense kept us relatively close. But Lane started getting easy baskets and they had an 11 point lead early in the fourth quarter at 37-26.

We switched to a wider version of our stack offense and finally started to get some open lanes to drive. Not only did we get some layups and tip-ins but we got fouled and were able to add points with the clock stopped. We were also able to set up our full court trap. Though Lane was physically bigger and stronger, they did not have a great primary ball handler and we were a lot quicker. We turned them over and when we didn't we put tremendous pressure on their half court offense and didn't allow them second shots. We kept on emphasizing in the huddle in timeouts that we were wearing them down and to keep putting pressure on them because they were going to break. For the first time in his career, Ellington got animated on the bench and said "we gotta play like dogs" among other strong words and that fired his teammates up.

We finally caught them at 43 when Ellington hit the second of two free throws and forced Lane to take a bad shot with 31 seconds left. After a timeout nobody could get open on an inbounds play under their basket and Ellington threw the ball out of bounds. Lane held the ball after another timeout for the last shot, but we pressured the ball enough to make them go to an alternative option and they came up short on a baseline runner.

We scored the first 6 points in overtime and killed a lot of the clock in our stall offense and eventually they had to foul. We missed three free throws in a row which allowed them to cut the lead to 51-47, but we made three free throws and a layup to finish the scoring.

Our guys never played harder and wore Lane down. We had been telling them all year that this could happen if you play hard, smart, and quick and today they played with that kind of effort that showed them they can win games against good teams. Coach went with Ellington, Will, Chidi, Adrien, and Bryson for the last quarter and all of overtime and they communicated well and played smothering defense while attacking the basket. The crowd was loud and awesome and really helped us. It was THE way to end the home schedule and a great send off for the seniors who really care about the program.

February 25   

Non-conference game at De La Salle Institute
De La Salle 83, Jones 44
Leading scorers: Will and Chidi 11
Record 21-6

This game was an eye-opener for a lot of reasons. De La Salle has three Division I players and they go by the adage (as a lot of Chicago Catholic League schools do) that it's not their job to stop scoring. It's up to the opponent to stop us. Sportsmanship is out the window. 

It is a football bully mentality from a football conference. And their coach had no problem running up the score and played the regulars until two minutes to go in the game. Coach G said this attitude has cost them in the past, losing a D1 player to an ACL injury because the coach kept him in the game too long in a game like ours. And Coach G always pulls our players when he knows he's going to win because he doesn't want to embarrass the other team. But De La Salle and most of the other teams in that league want to bury who they play if they get a chance.

So much for their program, which we could care less about. On the court our players started out scared, settled in a little, and got to within 11-8 before they got blown away with a 14 point run. It was an absolute blitz caused by panicked shots due to their quickness and length, and multiple turnovers. They had three dunks and multiple layups, and our players got a severe dose of big time high school basketball. In the first half their heads were hanging and there was frustration and they stopped competing. It was 42-17 at half.

At halftime in the locker room there were teachable moments. We got after the kids for not competing and we asked them to play as hard as they physically could with some hard cuts on offense and staying in front of guys on defense. It's hard to have a strategy where a team is faster, bigger, and more athletic, but we explained if you pull together as a team and not feel sorry for yourself there can be some positives.

The third quarter went better. We cut the lead to 21 at 59-38 toward the end of the quarter, but De La Salle stepped up their traps and started to pull away at the start of the fourth quarter. Coach G emptied the bench with more than six minutes to go, yet their coach kept their regulars in and was still trapping until the end of the game. That's some kind of statement. I've never understood coaches that do that. Is it ego? Do they feel deficient in other aspects of their life and have to take out their  anger in a sports venue? It sure seems like it. And this coach isn't any good with all that D1 talent. They are barely at .500 on their season and have massively underachieved. He better check out his school's mission statement.

Our kids hopefully learned a lot of lessons in this game and it's mostly about attitude and practice preparation, and understanding that opponents aren't your friends. As a staff we learned that we are doing what's right for our players to make them responsible adults. We ask that they treat people with respect and play hard and act with dignity, but to fear no one and play smart and together and always give their best. I'm sure they will be listening at practice tomorrow.

February 26   

I didn't mean to sound like sour grapes in my blog yesterday, but I despise experienced coaches that exhibit ZERO basketball sense. That means a professional coach who knows what the outcome of the game is going to be and doesn't care how much he or she wins by and substitutes liberally and takes off needless pressure on a lesser and beaten opponent.

The De La Salle coach and others in their league, the top teams in the Chicago Public League, and other big time programs locally and nationally have coaches that do not deserve to be called professional. A profane word describing them is a better fit.