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Goss: Julian Lewis the launch point for Lewis Flyers

Lewis' Julian Lewis goes up for shot as St. Francis defender Jean Pietrzak closes in. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

Lewis' Julian Lewis goes up for a shot as St. Francis defender Jean Pietrzak closes in. | Dennis Nelson/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 6, 2014 1:02PM



When Lewis needs a pick-me-up, the Flyers know where to look.

The alley-oop to 6-foot-5 forward Julian Lewis is the ticket. The junior from Homewood-Flossmoor has a vertical jump that should be illegal, and when he soars to snare a lob pass and slams it home, the fire has been lit.

“That doesn’t just happen,” Lewis said of the big-time dunks, two of which he recorded Wednesday night in a 20-point, 11-rebound effort that led unbeaten Lewis to a 74-64 victory over St. Francis at the Patrick J. Sullivan Recreation Center.

“I’ve been getting those a lot so far this season. We look at it as a play that gets us going. So, yes, it has a purpose.”

The Flyers (5-0) needed something to keep the upper hand against a game St. Francis bunch that fell to 2-7 but nailed 13-of-26 three-pointers.

“I give St. Francis a lot of credit,” said Lewis junior guard Ryan Jackson, who grew up in Bolingbrook and played high school ball at Riverside-Brookfield. “It’s hard to play a team that shot as well as they did.”

What Lewis had in response were the constants, Lewis and Jackson, the Flyers’ scoring leader last season, when he averaged 17 points per game, and again this season.

“From the time he came in as a freshman, Ryan has always been able to score against the best of them,” Lewis said.

“I feel we have a great team, and it’s got nothing to do with me individually,” said Jackson, who chipped in 17 points against St. Francis. “We work as a collective unit. It’s a team effort.”

Flyers coach Scott Trost, in his eighth year, described Wednesday’s game as “not pretty.” And much of the time, it wasn’t.

The potential is there, however. Only guard David Bryant graduated from the mainstays of a year ago, when the Flyers finished 12-6 in the rugged Great Lakes Valley Conference and somehow were snubbed from the NCAA Division II regionals. They last were there in 2012.

Bryant was an outstanding shooter, and Lewis has taken it upon himself to pick up some of the offensive slack. He averaged 8 points and 8 rebounds per game last year and is at about 16 and nine this season. Saints coach Ryan Marks marveled about Lewis’ improvement this year, and where he could be as a senior.

“This is a veteran group,” Trost said. “We’ve had three years with most of them. They’ve won a lot of big games playing in the best D-II league in the country.

“Ryan and Julian are special players. But the beauty of this group is we’re deep. We have multiple guys capable of stepping up. They’re talented, but the big thing is sustaining consistency.”

Easier said than done, of course.

The conversation with Jackson began with: “First off, we have to be more consistent. We have to take more pride in the defensive end, and we have to finish plays. The rest will take care of itself.”

You come away Wednesday thinking moral victory for St. Francis, an NAIA foe off to a slow start and battling injuries (6-7 Logan Timmons and 6-8 Jens Kennedy are on the shelf), and one to forget for Lewis, an upper-echelon D-II team.

But part of that assessment comes from expectations. Make no mistake, the Flyers have reasons to expect good things.



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