Four games in 11 days is a challenge for any team, even a high school team.
Not so the Leo Lions. And never mind the opposition.
Bloomington, the No. 3-ranked team in the Associated Press’ first Class 4-A state poll, was Leo’s opponent in the Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel on Sunday, Dec. 9, wrapping up a stretch that had seen the Lions face Loyola (road), St. Joe’s (home) and De La Salle (road) since Nov. 30.
And the Purple Raiders didn’t fare any better than the Ramblers, Chargers or Meteors had.
Leo trailed by seven (61-54) with just under three minutes remaining, but took a 63-61 lead when backup guard Rod-Shad Woods nailed a three-pointer to cap a 9-0 run. Bloomington pulled even on two free throws by All-Stater Chris Payton, then took a 64-63 lead when Payton split two free throws after a highly questionable foul call on a rebound.
Leo inbounded with nine seconds left. Fred Cleveland beat the Bloomington press and fed Kendale Anderson underneath. As the defense collapsed around Kendale Anderson, he slipped a pass to his brother DaChaun, who banked in the game-winning layup. Leo, 65-64.
“This was a great win,” Coach Jamal Thompson said after Leo raised its record to 7-1 with its seventh straight win. ”We were down most of the game, but we kept grinding and never stopped fighting. It’s what you have to do. I’m really proud of our guys.”
Bloomington’s Payton was the most spectacular player on the floor, embellishing his 21 points with five athletic dunks. But DaChaun Anderson was the most dominant, scoring a game-high 24 points and taking down 15 rebounds. And Fred Cleveland was the most versatile with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
It could be argued, though, that Woods’ go-ahead three-pointer was the biggest bucket of the game.
“He stepped up,” Thompson said. “We’ve been telling the guys that you have to be ready in case your number is called, and Rod-Shad was ready today. He hit the big shot, and his defense in the third quarter helped us turn the game around.”
Leo is off until Friday, Dec. 14, when it will face St. Ignatius (6-3, 2-1) in a Catholic League game at Leo. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.