Prep Basketball: Young J-Hawks rising behind senior leader
By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Rockford Jefferson’s LT Davis knocked a ball loose on defense and had to race against a Machesney Park Harlem player for the ball. Streaking to his right, ahead of the play, was his teammate.
Davis was half a step ahead of the Huskies’ player, but knowing he couldn’t stop and grab the ball without traveling, he simply hit it forward the best he could. The result was a perfect pass to his teammate and a layup — the type of heady play only a strong senior can make.
“We didn’t know if (Davis) saw him ahead,” Jefferson Head Coach Todd Brannan said. “I think he was just playing on instincts at that point.”
A talented group of underclassmen, including four freshman, is making the NIC-10 fret about the J-Hawks’ future. But their senior point guard is doing his best to make his team dangerous ahead of schedule in the wide open NIC-10.
Davis has been the J-Hawks’ most consistent threat, leading the team in scoring with nearly 14 points per game. But more than that, he has been able to use his deft playmaking skills to help set up his talented teammates.
Jared Mayes is the most seasoned of Davis’ talented underclassmen. The junior is the only player besides Davis with any extensive varsity experience.
His full array of skills was on display in an 84-67 win over Harlem that helped push Jefferson to 2-4 in the conference and 8-7 overall. Mayes killed the Huskies on the offensive boards and put down a thunderous dunk as the J-Hawks avenged an earlier 18-point loss to Harlem.
In addition, freshman Antonie Pittman displayed great strength for a young player on his way to 11, and fellow freshman Delundre Dixon scored 8 and helped Davis with the ball handling as the J-Hawks attacked the Harlem press.
Davis scored 17, hitting several big threes that would thwart Harlem runs and keep Jefferson’s lead in double digits. It is that mix of scoring, passing and clutch play that could make the J-Hawks a threat sooner rather than later.
Jefferson is the only Rockford school in class 4A that will not be participating in the Rockford Auburn regional, which means whoever comes out of Auburn could be looking at an improved Jefferson team come sectional time.
For Harlem (9-7, 1-5), it’s back to the drawing board. The Huskies got off to a great start to the season and remain the only team to knock off Rockford Boylan Catholic in the conference thus far.
But while Justin Van Wambeke has been a revelation for the Huskies, much of the rest of their offense has been inconsistent, and their lack of size has hurt them in rebounding.
Around the NIC-10:
• Despite still missing Quavion Scott, the Freeport Pretzels picked up a big statement win going in to Rockton Hononegah and coming away with a 40-32 victory. While an all-confererence spot is assured, the Pretzels’ Luke Norman continues to assert himself as a potential MVP candidate, this time leading all scorers with 17 points in the victory. The win keeps Freeport (8-6, 4-2) one game back of first place, while Hononegah (10-5, 4-2) falls one game off the pace and is now tied with the Pretzels for second.
• Kane Steger scored 23 points as Belvidere (12-4, 3-3) made a statement of their own in a 75-65 victory over Rockford East. Joe Byers also scored 16 as the Bucs continue their resurgence in the NIC-10. Devion Smith scored 15 to lead the way for East (9-7, 3-3).
• Jake Boxleitner scored 27 points for Belvidere North (6-9, 1-5) as they led the Boylan Titans for nearly all of their match-up. But it wasn’t enough as Adonis Brown helped Boylan (10-6, 5-1) escape with a 60-57 win over the Blue Thunder.
• Rockford Auburn (13-2, 5-1) scored early and often, racing out to a 29-9 lead in the first quarter on their way to a 104-56 win over Rockford Guilford (7-9, 2-4). Fred Van Vleet scored 27, and Lamark Foote scored 23 to lead the way for the Knights. Marcus Hardison scored 14 for Guilford.
From the Jan. 18-24, 2012, issue