By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
With several key players joining the team after the start of the season because of football, the Rockford Boylan Titans are still trying to find their identity as a team.
That is scary news for the rest of the NIC-10. Boylan jumped out to a 19-point first-quarter lead and cruised in for a 76-63 victory at Rockford East Dec. 16.
“We’re incredibly inexperienced,” Boylan Head Coach Mike Winters said. “But the good news is we’re finding ways to win with that inexperience, which is positive.”
The Titans got out to a quick start in the first. A combination of two quick fouls by East’s Steve McNease and great early execution allowed Ben Grygiel to score 8 of his 14 points and Dean Lowry to score 6 of his 10 points in the first quarter.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our first-quarter effort and, really, the first 10 minutes,” Winters said. “We really took them out of their game offensively with our defense and created a lot of easy baskets as a result.”
From there, East settled in and started attacking on defense. The E-Rabs tried to use their depth and speed to their advantage, and it worked at times, allowing them to cut the deficit to 10 several times.
But as the game increased in speed, the Titans’ Adonis Brown stepped up his game. The senior scored 27 points to lead all scorers, including 6 in the second quarter and 16 in the second half.
“When Adonis decides to make the simple play in the lane and get strong and finish, he’s a heck of an athlete and can put the ball in the basket,” Winters said. “He maybe understands those situations a little bit more having more time in varsity games, and we really need to lean on him to make those great decisions in the open floor.”
As the game wore on, it did look like East may finally be wearing the Titans down. The lead was cut down to 11 again in the fourth as the E-Rabs created a lot of turnovers.
Darshawn Pumphrey-King put in 7 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to keep it close. But East, which shot 35 percent on the night, could not take advantage of the turnovers to cut the lead down any more.
“Our hardest opponent is us,” East Head Coach Roy Sackmaster said. “We can’t make a shot to save our lives right now. Even though (Boylan) had some trouble turning the ball over, they are going to make their layups.”
Things weren’t all rosy for the Titans. They did struggle with turnovers and made only 13 of 31 free throws. But all things considered at this point, the Titans will take the wins how they can get them.
“Some of the free throws is still a little bit of legs,” Winters said. “We can’t keep using that excuse. But the fact of the matter is we are three weeks behind, and it shows offensively at times.”
In other NIC-10 action:
• The NIC-10 race is suddenly wide open after the Rockton Hononegah Indians knocked off the Rockford Auburn Knights 39-36. Jarred Morris knocked down four threes, and Carlos Hendrix hit a late 3-pointer to tie the game. The win moves Hononegah into a four-way tie with Auburn and Boylan. For the Knights, it was their first conference loss since February of 2010. Fred Van Vleet scored 13, but LaMark Foote struggled with only 3 points.
• Freeport is the fourth member of the tie at the top after they outlasted Rockford Jefferson in a 48-37 slugfest. Luke Norman led all scorers with 16 points and Devin Best chipped in 12 points for the Pretzels. Jefferson was able to bounce back with a 58-47 non-conference win over Algonquin Jacobs the following night.
• Maurice Jackson scored 18, and Kane Steger had 12 as Belvidere stayed a game out of first with a 70-68 upset over Machesney Park Harlem. Jordan Baxter scored 20 for Harlem, but the Bucs were able to limit Michael Proscia to only 10 points.
• Belvidere North could not follow up their big win over Harlem as Juwan Hubbard and the Rockford Guilford Vikings picked up their first conference win of the season, knocking off the Blue Thunder 79-64.
From the Dec. 21-27, 2011, issue