By Dan McGrath
A team commits 20-plus turnovers, misses seven layups, goes 8-for-17 at the free-throw line and sees its top scorer achieve half his normal output … you wouldn’t like its chances.
But the Leo Lions overcame all that with stellar defense and productive bench play in rolling Butler College Prep 57-30 in the first round of their IHSA Class 2-A Regional at Butler on Saturday, Feb.18. Improving to 8-22, the Lions extended their season into a Regional semifinal meeting with CICS Longwood (8-16) on Wednesday at South Shore High School. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
“Survive and advance,” Coach Jamille Ridley said. “That’s what it’s about this time of year.”
Leo lost to Longwood 48-35 in the Marshall Shootout on Jan. 15. It was the fourth game of a week that found the Lions mired in a season-worst nine-game losing streak and, simply, not playing well. But the younger players on the roster have begun to mature and gain confidence over the last month as Ridley gains confidence in using them.
“We’ll be better prepared and I think we’ll play better this time,” he said.
Sophomores Neil Anderson (13 points) and Emanuel Walker (12) were big-time contributors against Butler, Walker connecting on four rainbow three-pointers and Anderson handling the physical stuff underneath. Freshman Zion Wilkins was one of the primary ballhandlers against the Butler press and also scored five points.
Keeland Jordan had an off day shooting the ball and managed half his 22-point average, but he was a factor elsewhere with eight rebounds, four emphatic blocks and three steals. Fellow senior Jachi Lewis had eight points, six rebounds and four assists, while Kevin Jackson (four points) helped Wilkins keep the ball moving through the Butler defense.
Jermain Sellers had 15 points and Denim Fields 10 for the Lynx, who finished 10-19.