By Dan McGrath

Dreaming of Moline? 

Not likely. But the Leo Lions’ minds appeared to be elsewhere for odd stretches of Saturday’s 44-36 victory over Northridge Prep in an MLK Shootout game at Timothy Christian High School in Elmhurst. 

Leo was scheduled to spend the weekend at a two-game MLK Shootout in Moline, but heavy weather statewide forced a cancellation. The six-team Timothy Christian event found itself with an opening after a late withdrawal, and the Lions accepted a last-minute invitation.

They were never in real danger of losing to the Knights (12-4), leaders of the Chicago area’s Independent Schools League. Leo led by two after a quarter, by 10 at the half and by eight after three periods. But the Lions never seemed totally in synch, either, guilty of 21 turnovers, some questionable shot selection and an indifference to rebounding that would have been more costly against a team with a stronger inside presence.

Northridge’s coach, Will Rey, is a 40-year veteran of the profession with Division I college experience as head coach at Chicago Loyola. The Knights ran some college-level stuff at both ends, including a 1–3-1 press that had back-end vulnerabilities which Leo rarely exploited.  

But Coach Jamille Ridley was not complaining. The Lions (7-10), without a senior on the roster and with three freshmen logging major minutes, are one win away from matching last season’s victory total.  

“We forced some things when we didn’t have to and took too many quick shots, but other than that I thought it was one of our better offensive games,” Ridley said. “Nothing to complain about. We’ll take the ‘W’.” 

Leo did not have a double-figures scorer, Emmanuel Walker’s nine points topping the list of eight players who scored. Karon Shavers and Stephen Barze had seven apiece and Marlo Moore and Raymone Little scored six each, Little adding six rebounds and some strong interior defense. 

T.J. Gorman scored a game-high 10 points for the Knights. 

Next up for the Lions: another nonconference skirmish with Aurora Central Catholic (9-9) at Leo on Tuesday, Jan. 16. It’s a tuneup for the resumption of Catholic League play vs. Fenwick at Leo on Friday, Jan. 19. 

The Fenwick game is Alumni Night, and the Jesse White Tumblers are scheduled to perform at halftime. The sophomore game tips off at 5:30, followed by the varsity at 7. If  you’re planning to come, try to come early, as we’re expecting a capacity crowd.