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Boys Basketball: Shepard gets going by stopping foes

Shepard's Jacob Littletdrives net past Oswego East's Mike McAlister during 2013 Christmas Classic Romeoville Saturday Dec. 28 2013.  |

Shepard's Jacob Littleton drives to the net past Oswego East's Mike McAlister during the 2013 Christmas Classic in Romeoville on Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 24, 2014 12:44PM



Points have been difficult to come by on most nights this season for Shepard.

That’s why coach Tony Chiuccariello has placed a premium on the Astros getting after it on defense.

“We have to be able to hold people under 50 (points),” Chiuccariello said. “We have to contest shots and not make things easy. We’re doing a better job of that. We struggle at times putting the ball in the basket. On any night we need guys to step up and score.”

The Astros met Chiuccariello’s guidelines to a “T” on Friday night against T.F. North, resulting in an impressive 51-42 victory.

Not only did Shepard play strong defense, someone other than senior Jacob Littleton led the team in scoring. On that night Malcolm Lawson took home top honors with 13 points. Littleton, who is averaging 17.5 points per game, finished with 11.

“We need to take some of the pressure of scoring off of Jacob,” Chiuccariello said. “Jacob is doing a real nice job. He attacks the basket. He did a great job vs. T.F. North against their press break and showed very, very good court vision.”

The Astros are trying to cope with the loss of Kyle Longfield, who fractured a bone in his right foot during the holidays. He suffered the same injury to the same foot around the same time in 2012. Chiuccariello is confident Longfield will return within the first two weeks of February.

Nick Heidinger recently has been a force on the boards for the Astros, recording 25 rebounds over the past three games. Darren Cohen and Yakov Witherspoon also have stepped up.

“We need Cohen to block shots and hit the boards,” Chiuccariello said. “Yakov is athletic but very raw. He’s coming around though.”

Oak Forest’s Roland a sleeper

Oak Forest coach Matt Manzke thinks he has a sleeper for small colleges in point guard Jason Roland.

“Jason is one of the most underrated players in the area,” Manzke said. “He can handle the ball, he can score from the perimeter or taking it to the basket. He’s been a leader for us. Any college that needs a point guard, they should be looking at him.”

Roland is averaging 13 points and 4 assists per game.

Player of the Week

Niko Kogionis, of Sandburg, is the SouthtownStar Boys Basketball Player of the Week.

The junior scored 22 points Saturday to lead the Eagles to a 59-46 upset win over Stagg.



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