File photo by Jeff Vorva
Richards’ Jaylan Catledge is shown tumbling in a game last year. For the most part, the South Suburban Red teams take tumbles when facing SSC Blue teams in crossover games.
SSC teams’ records in crossover games this season:
TF North 4-0
TF South 4-0
Oak Forest 3-1
Tinley Park 3-1
Evergreen Park 1-3
Oak Lawn 0-4
Before his team’s Friday night contest at T.F. South, Richards coach Chris Passafiume was asked if his players noticed the victory advantage in South Suburban Conference crossover games enjoyed by the Blue Division teams over their Red.
“They really don’t,” he said. “Our main focus is on whoever’s in front of us on that night.”
After the Rebels topped Richards 56-40 to run their league record to 4-0, all against Blue teams, Bulldogs senior Jeremiah Melton was posed the same question.
“We notice,” he said. “It’s always tougher to play the other side.”
Richards (5-3, 2-2) entered the weekend as the only SSC Red member with a win over a Blue squad. The rest of the Bulldogs’ division was a combined 0-17 in crossovers. After Friday’s action, Evergreen Park joined Richards in the win department over a Blue team with a 59-46 triumph over Tinley Park. Heading into this week, Blue had a 21-3 advantage.
This isn’t new.
From the 2012-13 season through 2015-16, the Blue owned a 134-62 edge in crossovers.
“I know the coaches recognize that,” South coach John O’Rourke said. “It makes for some interesting discussions at the all-conference meeting.”
The SSC produces all-Blue and all-Red teams. Some years, that means a second-place Red squad that goes 6-7 might produce more all-conference players than a 9-4 Blue team that finishes tied for fourth. Last season, Richards won the Red at 9-4, which would have been good for fourth in the Blue.
Melton, a senior, is hopeful that another rough start fades into a Richards Red Division crown, as it has in nine of 10 SSC seasons since the league’s 2006 inception.
“With our (Hinsdale Central) Christmas tournament, this should get us ready to finish strong,” he said.
Friday, the Bulldogs did anything but as the Rebels (5-3 overall) eased away after leading just 30-24 with 4:22 to play in the third quarter.
Behind 6-foot-5 forward Bron Hill, who finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds, South started racking up easy buckets in transition and put together a 20-9 surge over the next eight minutes. J’Quan Black backed up Hill with eight points and 10 boards.
“In the middle of the third, they started getting run-outs,” Melton said. “We tried to pressure them a little bit, and it broke down.”
Melton led Richards with 11 points. Jaylan Catledge, back after missing two games with a foot injury, was well off his 23.4-points-per-game average, scoring six on one-of-nine shooting. But he added nine rebounds.
“He said it was a little sore at the end,” Passafiume said. “But I think it was more rust than anything. He was nervous. He wasn’t playing with the reckless abandon he usually does.
“It was different, seeing him like that. We know he’s one of the greatest players ever to suit up at Richards, and he’d play on one leg if we’d let him — but I think he was worried he might roll off somebody’s foot and hurt it again.”
South game-planned for a healthy Catledge.
“I know he was injured, but our focus was to take him away, to force him into difficult shots,” O’Rourke said. “And we wanted to force their shooters to put the ball on the floor as opposed to catching and shooting 3-pointers.”
Catledge should be at full strength by the time Richards next plays against Rockford Auburn at Hinsdale on Dec. 27. As the tallest Richards player — he’s listed at 6-5 — he’ll have to be if the Bulldogs are going to defend their Red Division title.
“We don’t have 6-9, 6-10 guys ducking to get through the doorways walking the halls at Richards,” Passafiume said. “We can compete if we do the things we stress in practice. We have to create some more things defensively.
“We’ve got to pressure the ball, get out and run, use the athletes we have. We will. I like our group. We have mentally tough kids at Richards.”