By Jack Ankony, executive sports editor
Late in the first quarter, Prospect senior forward Jalen McLachlan was poked in the eye going for a rebound. Already undersized against a Buffalo Grove team with 6-foot-6-inch Mac Camardo and 6-foot-3inch Tom Trieb, the Knights were forced to play the rest of the half without their dominant force inside.
To make matters worse, the Knights shot 1-13 from three-point range, far from their 39 percent season average. However, lead by senior leadership from senior guards David Swedura and Tim Lussenhop, the Knights were able to stay within striking distance heading into halftime down 25-19 on Dec. 15.
“[Buffalo Grove] had our typical spread offense scouted perfectly,” head coach John Camardella said. “They were sagging off and we were getting none of our usual action. So you couple Jalen’s injury and being broke from outside, to only be down by six at half was a testament to our guys staying the course.”
Coming out of the locker room after halftime, the Knights had a new mentality. Lead by 22 points from Swedura, the Knights shot 15-19 from the field to open the second half, and were 5-6 from beyond the arc. McLachlan also returned for the second half, controlling the glass.
A near flawless second half earned the Knights a 62-47 win over Buffalo Grove, the preseason MSL East champion, in their home gym.
“This win feels great,” Swedura said. “This was a game that we were really looking forward to. [Buffalo Grove] with all their experience, we just wanted to play our game.”
Camardella described this game as a tale of two halves.
“They never doubted themselves once,” Camardella said. “We said it at half and we said it right here. This was a huge win for the team to come in here and to do what we were able to do. I always say attitude reflects leadership and I thought [Swedura] and [Lussenhop] showed great leadership.”
11 assists in the second half helped the Knights knock down open looks. At halftime, Camardella explains that assistant coach Brad Rathe stressed pressuring the ball and playing physical against Camardo and Trieb.
“It was all about digging in and guarding them hard defensively,” Camardella said. “What we did was get up on them earlier and that changed the attitude of who we were.”
Though the Bison had a size advantage inside, Swedura saw this as a benefit to the Knights at times during the game. Lussenhop contributed 14 points and 5 assists, and junior Jon Kreidler had 12 points.
“We really just wanted to space the floor,” Swedura said. :With their bigs guarding some of our guards we just ran a lot of pick and roll and our normal offense and just started executing.”
A 43-22 second half in favor of the Knights gave them a cushion going forward in the MSL East standings. The Knights and Bison will matchup again at Prospect on Jan. 26.
“When we play them next we just have to think just never back down,” Swedura said. “Play our game and keep attacking them. They are on their backs right now and we can’t let them have anything.”
After their win over Buffalo Grove, the Knights had to turn around and play Stevenson the next day at Prospect. Though they didn’t need a half court shot at the buzzer from Franke Mack like last season, the Knights were able to extend their win streak to seven games with a 60-43 win.
In this game, Swedura lead the Knights with 16 points, Lussenhop followed with 13, Kreidler 11, junior Sam Murray 10, and McLachlan contributed 6 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. After trailing in the first quarter, the Knights shot 8-10 from the field in the second qtr to go on a 22-11 run.
The Knights will next matchup with Rolling Meadows on Dec. 21 before playing in the Wheeling Hardwood Classic on Dec. 27-30.