By Jack Ankony, Executive Sports Editor
After losing the first two games of the season during the Saint Viator Thanksgiving tournament to Evanston (63-58) and Saint Viator (71-60), there were some question marks surrounding the boys’ basketball team.
How would they recover after losing four starters from last year’s team? Who would emerge as a consistent second scorer behind senior David Swedura? How can the team grow defensively to guard some of the top players in the area? What can the team do to overcome preseason MSL East favorites Buffalo Grove?
It is safe to say all of these questions have been answered, after the Knights won the MSL Championship and finished with a 22-6 record, but we’ll address them anyways.
How would they recover after losing four starters from last year’s team?
2017 graduates Frankie Mack and Matt Szuba were some of the program’s most memorable players in recent years. Mack, an 1000-point career-scorer could score whenever the team needed it, and Szuba, the all-time Prospect rebounding leader, was a defensive force and much of the Knights’ offense ran through him. A serious question mark at the start of the season now seems crazy to think about. Swedura the lone returning starter, lead the Knights’ offensive attack with 16.4 ppg and fit perfectly with the new additions to the starting lineup of seniors Tim Lussenhop, Johnny Czeslawski, Jalen McLachlan, and junior Jon Kreidler. The four new starters played like experienced veterans and gelled almost instantly.
Who would emerge as a consistent second scorer behind senior David Swedura?
The answer to this question was different on a game-to-game basis. In a good way. The Knights’ offense was often defined by having four to five scorers in double figures. Swedura and Lussenhop made up the best guard-duo in the MSL, but even if they had off nights, the Knights’ offense didn’t waiver, getting contributions from the other three starters on a nightly basis. Against Glenbrook North in the regional semifinal, Johnny Czeslawski had 21 points. Against Buffalo Grove, Kreidler had 16 points. In an MSL East-clinching win, McLachlan had 17 points. It was never one guy that had to step up, besides Swedura’s 41 points versus Waukegan, and that is what made the Knights so difficult to guard.
How can the team grow defensively to guard some of the top players in the area?
In the first two games of the season, Evanston’s Lance Jones scored 21 points and Saint Viator’s guard Treyvon Calvin poured in 22 points against the Knights. As the season went on, the Knights made defensive adjustments, which often won them games. Assistant coach Brad Rathe takes pride in the team’s defensive schemes, and executed great gameplans when it mattered. To clinch the MSL East, the Knights held Rolling Meadows’ freshman phenom Max Christie to three points, and in the MSL Championship game, the Knights held Barrington point guard and Daily Herald Player of the Week, Anthony Spann, to six points. What made the Knights defense so hard to beat was their ability to mix up looks. Though man-to-man was their base defense, the Knights played plenty of 1-3-1 zone that often lead to electrifying dunks by McLachlan (28 steals) and Lussenhop (60 steals). Prospect would also bring Swedura and Lussenhop to pressure the opposing team’s point guard, leading Swedura to total 50 steals on the season.
What can the team do to overcome preseason MSL East favorites Buffalo Grove?
Like some of the previous questions, this one is odd to think of. Buffalo Grove returned experience at all positions from the year before and looked primed to win the MSL East. Not if Prospect had anything to say about it, though. In the two games versus Buffalo Grove, the Knights won soundly, 62-47 and 67-46. Buffalo Grove had a definite size advantage, but the defense and athleticism of McLachlan, and the versatility of Kreidler cancelled out any advantage the Bison thought they had. Bison big men Mac Camardo and Tom Trieb could score down low, but the active hands of McLachlan, who had 33 blocks all year, shut them down. Kreidler’s ability to play inside and out drew Trieb out of the lane to free up passing lanes for other players, and isolated Kreidler to use his quickness to take it to the basket.
Overall season conclusion:
The Knights have a lot to be proud of this season: back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1984-1985, an MSL Championship, and undefeated record in the MSL, an 1000-point scorer, and an appearance in the regional championship game. Other than a two-point win versus Rolling Meadows, all MSL wins were decided by at least 9 points, and nine games were won by at least 15 points.
Gaining momentum often defined this team as they went on eight and 10 game win-streaks at different stretches of the season. This was also seen through their ability to make adjustments and the third quarter being their best most games, according to head coach John Camardella.
Falling short to New Trier in the regional championship game 53-35 was a tough way to end the season, but it should not define how this team is remembered.