By Dan McGrath
The worst thing that could have happened to Leo basketball was to have senior standout Keeland Jordan miss an IHSA Class 2-A regional semifinal against CICS Longwood at South Shore High School on Wednesday, Feb. 22.
The next worst was to have Jordan shaken up in a car accident the day before the game. That did happen, and it affected him, though you might not have noticed if you weren’t watching closely.
Jordan followed up a scoreless first half with a remarkable second, going for 25 points on sheer effort. But the Lions never led in the game, never escaped the early 15-3 hole they dug for themselves waiting for Jordan to get going.
Their season ended in a 61-53 defeat. And while they competed from the opening tip to the final horn, the Lions couldn’t overcome turnovers (21), missed free throws (11) and the tattooing they took on the defensive backboards.
“I’m proud of you guys,” Coach Jamille Ridley said in a somber postgame locker room. “It wasn’t easy, being thrust into a situation with all those guys leaving. But the seniors stepped in, the young guys stepped up …
“You gave us everything you had, every night. Left it out there. This team will always be special to me.”
Leo got back into the game with a scrappy halfcourt trap that discombobulated the Panthers, limiting them to six points in the second quarter. With Jachi Lewis (8), Emanuel Walker (6) and Neil Anderson (4) combining for 18, it was a three-point game (21-18) at the halftime break.
Jordan’s first bucket of the night brought the Lions within one, but he missed the tacked-on free throw that would have tied it. Longwood then converted three straight empty possessions into six points. The Panthers led by seven, and Leo gradually saw the curtain fall on an 8-23 season.
Kenric Mosby has an unorthodox shot that will never be featured in a coach’s manual or an instructional film, but the 6-foot-6 rover connected often enough to score 19 points, two on a breakaway slam that pretty much sealed the deal with 2:19 remaining.
Terrence Hilliard scored 15 points and DeMarco Hawkins had 12 for the Panthers (9-16), who made it two in a row over the Lions, following up the 48-35 ‘W’ they achieved in a shootout at Marshall five weeks earlier.
Leo says goodbye to Jordan, Lewis and fellow seniors Kevin Jackson, Amare Hall, Christian Scott and Koby Triplett. Sophomores Anderson and Walker and freshman Zion Wilkins return, along with some other promising talent from the lower levels.
Ridley was already thinking of next season before he left the locker room.