By Dan McGrath

The South Suburban Red Conference which Oak Lawn (9-1, 18-6) is dominating this season is not as highly regarded as the Chicago Catholic League Blue in which Leo competes, so Coach Jamille Ridley expected the Spartans’ best shot in their meeting at the Evergreen Park Sunday Shootout.

“Beating a Catholic League Blue team would be a big deal for them,” he said.

The Lions (11-16, 1-5) made Oak Lawn work for it, trimming a 36-21 halftime deficit to 40-36 midway through the third period and remaining within striking distance thereafter. But as the Spartans were wrapping up a 68-61 victory, it was apparent that their guard line of Donte Montogomery and Corey Lee would be difference-makers on any team Leo has seen this season, irrespective of conference. 

Montgomery went for 25 points and Lee scored 20, controlling the game at both ends of the floor. They got to the basket with aplomb, and when Leo’s big men came out to contest, they slipped the ball to Kyle Brennan or Jack Dempsey for layups. Four points was as close as the Lions would get in the second half, despite another all-out effort.

“They beat us off the dribble too often and too easy,” Ridley said. “That’s my responsibility. We should have been in the gym yesterday, but I thought we needed the rest and we didn’t practice. We came out sluggish and they jumped us.”

Marlo Moore kept the Lions in it with 11 points in the first half, finishing with a team-high 18. Stephen Barze’s 13 points all came in the second half. Neil Anderson worked maniacally to score nine, and with designated shooter Emanuel Walker in foul trouble, freshman Brandon Gandy got some minutes and scored eight points.

The Lions will attempt to play spoiler by knocking Mount Carmel (25-3, 5-0) from the top spot in the CCL Blue when they meet at Leo on Tuesday. The regular season wraps with a game at St. Ignatius (14-11, 1-4) on Friday.