Goss: Joliet West tries to find a way against Marian Catholic
By Dick Goss email@example.com March 5, 2013 8:30PM
Tyler Ulis (left), of Marian Catholic, and Carl Terrell, of Joliet West. | File photo
CLASS 2A JOLIET CENTRAL SUPERSECTIONAL
Seton vs. Providence-St. Mel, 7:30 p.m.
CLASS 3A RICH SOUTH
Rich East vs. Coal City, 7:30 p.m.
CLASS 4A THORNTON
Marian Catholic vs. Joliet West, 7:30 p.m.
CLASS 3A RICH SOUTH
Providence vs. Hillcrest,
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:23AM
Before Morris Dunnigan dribbled to the top of the key, stopped and popped in a three-pointer to tie T.F. North 36-36 with 1:41 left in Friday’s Class 4A Lockport Regional final, Joliet West had made 1-of-14 threes.
It was that kind of night. The Tigers shot 27 percent (12-of-44). They were outrebounded 38-27 and made 4-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Reasons galore why the Tigers could have been home relaxing this week rather than preparing for Wednesday night’s snow-delayed Thornton Sectional semifinal against No. 1 seed Marian Catholic (27-3).
But West (19-7 and the No. 4 seed) is nothing if not a team that finds a way.
“Our team is built in such a way that we can win 40-37 or 67-64,” Tigers coach Luke Yaklich said. “Both ways. (Friday), defensive pressure and awareness kept us in the game. Our offense was not working but we did not let that affect our defense.”
Coaches consistently preach that. If you let a poor shooting night affect the rest of your game, you’re beaten. But if you respond the way the Tigers did against T.F. North, you have a shot.
“This team we have, they’re a tough group of dudes,” Yaklich said. “I would have had a very difficult time looking them in the eye again if we hadn’t done all we could to help them win (Friday).”
What West did was crank up the defensive pressure big time in the fourth quarter, when T.F. North committed 11 turnovers and scored four points after entering the final eight minutes with a 33-28 lead.
“We do what we do,” forward Brandon McCullum said. “We knew that even though shots weren’t falling, we would be able to come back in the second half if we turned up the ‘D’. ”
“We kept fighting,” guard Carl Terrell said. “We just said in the fourth quarter that we can’t let our offense, the way we were shooting, affect our defense.”
Every game is different. The Tigers may give the same sort of defensive effort against Marian, and the score may be something close to that 67-64 Yaklich mentioned. Or not. Marian, which does not have much size, outrebounded the Tigers 24-16 in scoring a 49-44 victory when the teams met Dec. 4.
The Spartans feature a star guard in Tyler Ulis, who breaks down defenses, scored 21 against West and is capable of dropping 30 on any opponent. Of course, so is Dunnigan.
Dunnigan was 2-of-13 shooting against T.F. North before hitting a 10-foot turnaround jumper with 3:08 left and the three-pointer at the 1:41 mark. With 3:41 to go, he was elbowed in the back of the head while attempting a driving layup.
He stayed down for a minute and left the game, but only briefly.
“I didn’t want to come out of this game,” he said.
“Dunnigan took over in the fourth quarter. That’s what big-time players do,” T.F. North coach Tim Bankston said.
The defense the Meteors played forced Yaklich to change Dunnigan’s role. Rather than playing on a wing and getting the ball from teammates, he had his hands on the ball out front and had to dribble a lot.
Whatever it takes.
“Many coaches in the area have said through the year that Morris could get a shot on any possession he wanted to,” Yaklich said. “But he is a willing passer. He wants nothing more than to have his teammates win the game.”
If Terrell, Ryan Modiest and perhaps McCullum or Alias Roberts-Burnett can hit a few outside shots, the Tigers will have a chance to upset the Spartans.
Or, if Dunnigan has that super game ...
“Morris understands game pressure and game situations better than anyone I have coached,” Yaklich said. “He has a uncanny ability to understand all situations in a game.
“I never played with or against anyone like him — not at 6-foot-2.”
Ulis also is a superior talent, and Marian Catholic has enjoyed a season worthy of a No. 1 seed. As well as West played defensively against T.F. North, holding Marian to 37 points is not likely to happen.
But you know what, 67-64 counts the same as 40-37.