By Jack Ankony, Executive Sports Editor
Everywhere Prospect would turn, they would see a New Trier body. A ball screen, hedged. A drive to the basket, and there was New Trier’s help-side defense. This was the pressure the Knights faced in the regional championship versus the Trevians on March 2.
“They just put an unbelievable amount of pressure on our guards,” head coach John Camardella said. “When you punch a gap then meet another guy, the passing lanes are taken away and it’s a whole different way you have to play.”
New Trier’s ability to switch screens with every player on their team, positions one through five, made it difficult for the Knights to get into an offensive rhythm. Losing 53-35, the Knights were lead in scoring by senior David Swedura 11 pts (2-11 FG) (7-8 FT), senior Johnny Czeslawski 6 pts (2-7 FG), and junior Sam Murray 6 pts (2-5 FG).
The Knights shot 26 percent from the field, and, according to Camardella, New Trier’s control of the tempo threw off the Knights’ offense.
“Shots weren’t falling, we had to chase, change up things defensively,” Camardella said. “That wasn’t a normal part of our tempo and once you start chasing you have to expend energy and sometimes that energy you spent on defense can take your legs out of offense.”
Junior forward Ciaran Brayboy lead the Trevians with 16 points, exciting the home crowd with four dunks. Brayboy was also a key cog in the Trevians defense that outrebounded the Knights 32-17.
“You can’t get the offensive rebound against them,” Camardella said. “That’s to their credit. One thing you can’t teach is size. They are largest, tallest, longest team we have played all year.”
Though emotions were flying high throughout the game, Camardella is proud of how the Knights started the game and stayed calm.
“They stayed the course,” Camardella said. “We were getting shots, we weren’t turning the ball over that much, we were just missing. When you hit, things can snowball and when you miss they snowball. Basketball is a major momentum game and you try to control it, we just weren’t able to tonight.”
The Knights finish their season 22-6, a record Camardella is extremely proud of.
“I know they are disappointed tonight as they should be,” Camardella said. “But when they reflect back on this they will realize how much they accomplished.”
Going undefeated in the MSL East, winning the MSL championship game and completing the first back-to-back 20-win seasons since 1984-1985 are accomplishments Camardella will hold on to. Returning only one starter from last year’s team tempered expectations from outside sources at the beginning of the season, but Camardella’s goals never waivered.
“The expectations from the outside weren’t very high and I think the expectations on the inside were extremely high,” Camardella said. “I think that is something that is a credit to these teenagers. I think that is something that we sometimes don’t give our teenagers enough credit for the amount of time and work they put in in the offseason and their willingness to grow as a group and mesh with the juniors and seniors.”
The Knights again will graduate a memorable senior class lead by Swedura, Czeslawski, Tim Lussenhop and Jalen McLachlan. Camardella also credits seniors Pat McPartlin, Zach Matter, Luka Djogo and William Isherwood for their dedication to the program in their four years.
Swedura, a career 1000-point scorer, who lead the Knights to an 28-3 MSL record in his three years as a starter has set the bar high for Prospect point guards, according to Camardella.
“[Swedura] is the consummate teammate and that is what needs to be said,” Camardella said. “He had good players around him, but he made everyone else better. To have a guy that is willing to share the ball, though he could have averaged 25 points, but he didn’t. It was more a matter of his unselfish attitude.”
In the end, the Knights fell just short in the regional final for the second year in a row, but Camardella knows the team will hold their heads high.
“That’s what happens when you play on the road against a top team,” Camardella said. “I know our guys are disappointed, but I have no regrets. I know our guys left everything out there.”