By Dan McGrath

The Leo Lions played hard enough, and in some respects well enough, to beat host Evergreen Park in the Sunday Shootout at Evergreen Park High School on Sunday, Feb. 5. 

But they didn’t. They lost 68-59 in overtime, done in by a failure to value the ball—the Lions committed 20 turnovers, including three on their first three overtime possessions, negating a spirited 9-2 spurt with which they closed out regulation to force the extra period. 

The Mustangs converted those three turnovers into seven points, then protected the lead with near-perfect free-throw shooting after the Lions took to fouling in a futile response to EP’s keep-away tactics. 

A senseless technical after a deliberate personal was especially egregious; the Mustangs made all four free throws and retained possession, building a nine-point lead that stood up as the final. 

“It’s really unfortunate to play that hard and not be rewarded,” Coach Jamille Ridley said. “We’re getting better, no question. But we have to learn to take better care of the ball.” 

 Senior Keeland Jordan played another excellent all-around game for the Lions with a game-high 26 points, plus seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Fellow senior Jachi Lewis scored 18 points.

Evergreen Park (15-13) made 13 three-pointers, four by junior guard Nolan Sexton, the son of EP coach Jim Sexton, who also converted seven straight free throws in overtime on his way to a team-high 25 points. Nathan Hangabook’s 16 points included four three-pointers, and Ulises Cardenas connected three times from distance while scoring 13 points. Freshman Lonnie Mosley’s 11 points featured 8-for-10 free-throw shooting. 

The Lions (6-19 overall, 2-7 Catholic League) resume CCL play on Tuesday, Feb. 7, facing St. Laurence (18-10, 5-6) on Senior Night at Leo. Jordan, Lewis, Kevin Jackson, Koby Triplett, Amare Hall and Christian Scott will be recognized in a pregame ceremony. 

The sophomore game will tip off at 5:30, followed by the varsity at 7.