Bulldogs fall to Hornets as new year struggles continue
By Jason Maholy
It has been a tale of two seasons for the Richards girls basketball team.
The Bulldogs were having the best of times as they rolled through the first half of the season, winning their first eight games and 12 of their first 13. They finished 2018 strong with by taking the title at the Chicago Agriculture & Science Tournament.
What a difference beginning another trip around the sun can make. A more challenging portion of the schedule and players missing time with various ailments have been key contributors to the struggles.
There have undoubtedly been worse times in the program’s history, but 2019 has thus far been unkind to the Bulldogs. A 53-20 stomping by Tinley Park to begin the new year began a four-game losing streak, and a gritty but ultimately losing effort against Hinsdale South on Jan. 23 made it five losses in seven games.
The 49-42 loss to the Hornets was especially disheartening, given the Bulldogs held South to three points in the third quarter and led by three heading into the fourth. The visitors, however, scored 20 points in the final eight minutes and buckled down on Richards scoring machine Halle Idowe to steal a game in Oak Lawn.
Idowe scored 21 points on an array of shots – jumpers, floaters, drives to the rim and 3-pointers – to lead all scorers, but tallied only six in the second half as the Hornets’ focus on the 6-foot forward stymied the Bulldogs offense. Richards was held to 13 second-half points.
The Bulldogs were without 5-foot-10 junior forward Mikayla Dove, the team’s most consistent scorer outside of Idowe and who frequently presents a match-up problem for opposing defenses.
Richards coach Jeff Kortz, who celebrated his birthday that evening, acknowledged the Bulldogs – and Idowe in particular – missed Dove’s presence in the paint.
“Mikayla is Halle’s safety valve in the post, and we didn’t have her, so Halle kind of played with a hand behind her back,” Kortz said. “Not that Mikayla would have won the game for us, but we just had to deal with it.
“We played other kids and they got some meaningful minutes, so we’re hoping that pays off.”
Finding someone other than Idowe and Dove to step into the role of a consistent and reliable performer has been a struggle.
Junior guard Brittony Davis had 13 points against South.
“We’re working on some things , changing some things, trying to get better,” Kortz said. “Different people have got to step up every game. Halle is Halle and we know what we’re going to get out of Halle, but we need people to step up, whether its knock some shots down, rebound the basketball or pass the basketball, or get us into something (on offense).”
Injury and illness have contributed to Richards’ January struggles. Idowe fell ill after the Ag Tournament and was out for a week as the Bulldogs lost four games in a row. Senior guard Bryianna Williams injured her knee in season-opener and just returned, but is at less than full strength, and Dove got banged up against Oak Lawn on Jan. 18.
“Bryianna is a senior who can help with a lot of stuff, and she’s coming back and hopefully we get her strong,” Kortz said. “We count on her and she’s trying her tail off, but she’s not 100 percent.”
Richards’ inexperience was evident in the decisive fourth quarter against South. With the Hornets pressing, the Bulldogs failed to establish any kind of rhythm or flow on offense.
“We’re still kind of young at the guards, and pressure like that’s going to bother us a little bit,” Kortz said.
Richards was hoping to right the ship Jan. 29 at Evergreen Park.
“I know it’s late in the year, but we just have to continue to get better,” Kortz said. “Today we did some good things, but we didn’t do as much as we needed to.”