HEADLINE: Skin of their teeth
SUBHEAD: Hussein FG lifts Bulldogs past Mustangs
By Ken Karrson
Richards players acknowledged to coach Jevon Mamon how much stress they’ve been putting the first-year leader under of late.
“Friday night the kids said they had to stop giving me a heart attack,” Mamon said with a chuckle. “It was a scary week, [but] we were joking about it.”
The main reason the Bulldogs were able to enjoy a bit of levity was because both nail-biters in which they engaged last week tilted their way by the end. Friday’s 40-39 win over Evergreen Park, realized when Ameen Hussein beat the final buzzer with a running one-hander, was the big one as it allowed Richards to retain thoughts of a successful South Suburban Conference Red title defense.
Richards also edged Hubbard 54-51 in a nonconference matchup on Tuesday.
“We need to finish out strong,” said Mamon, whose club trails SSC Red leader Eisenhower by two games. The District 218 sister schools will meet on the last Friday of the regular season.
“Guys took a mindset that we took enough losses [and] we’re not going to lose anymore. [But] we know we didn’t play our best game [versus the Mustangs], so we have to keep working. We can’t afford to not put forth our best effort for 32 minutes on the floor.”
Lack of effort wasn’t the Bulldogs’ problem; lack of shooting success was, at least for portions of the contest. Evergreen (6-18, 1-8) parked itself in a 2-3 zone defense and Richards (11-11, 4-5) ended the evening with a shooting percentage that languished below 40.
In an attempt to ease some of his team’s frustration, Mamon chose to stall during the second half, but that strategy backfired. Not only did the Mustangs refuse to budge, they also forced a turnover that led to points for them.
“We were fine with a low-scoring game,” Evergreen coach Pat Flannigan said. “We have trouble scoring, so I had no problem with that.”
The only two Mustangs able to make much offensive headway were Isaac Matthews and Jordan Brown, who combined to net all but five of Evergreen’s points. Matthews complemented his 24-point outburst with eight rebounds and three assists while Brown made three steals and blocked three shots.
The Mustangs were slightly superior to Richards shooting-wise, but their 43 percent success rate got buried beneath 18 turnovers and a sub-par 55 percent display at the foul line. The majority of Evergreen’s nine missed free throws came in the fourth quarter.
Bounces didn’t go the Mustangs’ way at other times either. They missed one layup after stealing the ball and watched the Bulldogs bank in 3-pointer during the game and retain possession in another instance after a pass bounced off a Richards player’s head and right into the hands of another Bulldog.
“We didn’t have any luck at all,” Flannigan said. “We had some tough shots hit against us.
“I just felt bad for our seniors. Those guys haven’t beaten Richards. We can’t pin this [loss] on one person -- through the course of the game I can point to six or seven possessions [with improper execution] by six or seven different guys.”
Both squads held an advantage during the final frame, but neither ever led by more than seven at any juncture. Mamon felt Richards did a better job of not settling for outside shots later on, but such was not always the case.
“We had the lead, but [at times] we were playing like we were down,” he said. “We were rushing things. I pulled Hussein aside one time and said, ‘We should be looking at you to settle us down.’ He made a great play at the end of the game and showed how much character he has.
“[Flannigan’s] kids played hard and were scrappy, like we knew they would. I’m grateful we were able to come out with the victory.”
Impressing Mamon as much as the outcome itself was the manner in which his players handled the rough patches.
“When we hit adversity, guys weren’t pointing fingers or balming each other,” he said. “We stayed the course with it. We hadn’t won two straight since Christmas, so maybe that is what we need [to get on a roll].”
The Greyhounds’ Deonta McReynolds was nearly a one-man wrecking crew last Tuesday, but the Bulldogs survived his 29-point eruption to bag a win. Jaylen Catledge tallied 14 points and Chris Bender, who had supplied Richards with 25 points and five rebounds the week before versus Brother Rice, finished with 12 markers.
Mamon credited Lucas White with slowing up McReynolds somewhat after halftime.
“He was face-guarding him and making it difficult for [McReynolds] to catch the ball,” Mamon said.
Richards’ only outing this week is Friday’s date with its other district rival, Shepard.
Putnam County 64
Evergreen Park 47
Flannigan described Friday’s game as “a heartbreaker” and said “our hearts stayed broken on Saturday.”
Appearing at the Panthers’ one-day shootout in Granville, the Mustangs lost the opening tip, immediately fell behind when the hosts sank a layup and never were in front. Evergreen managed just 14 points in the first 16 minutes as Matthews struggled through his worst performance of the year en route to a season-low four points.
“When he struggles, we struggle,” Flannigan said. “We came out flat and they took the wind out of our sails. We fought a little bit in the second half, but our execution was still poor.
“We didn’t have the heart or the energy and [the Panthers] were not bad. They had a couple guys you can see have played a lot of basketball.”
Tyler Sorbellini’s 10 points represented the Mustangs’ top individual production. Putnam County outshot Evergreen 54 percent to 31, and the latter also committed 15 miscues.
The Mustangs square off with Reavis in an SSC Red game on Friday.
Evergreen Park 39
Richards Scoring: Hussein 14.
Evergreen Park Scoring: Matthews 24, Brown 10, Pritchett 2, Sorbellini 2, Smyth 1. Rebounds: Matthews 8. Assists: Matthews 3. Steals: Brown 3, Moran 3. Blocks: Brown 3, Pritchett 3.
Richards Scoring: Catledge 14, Bender 12.
Putnam County 64
Evergreen Park 47
Evergreen Park Scoring: Sorbellini 10.