Men’s College Basketball: Prairie State enjoys good turn
By Steve Millar For Sun-Times Media February 6, 2014 7:16PM
Prairie State's men's basketball coach Mike Manderino | File photo
Updated: February 7, 2014 2:16AM
Prairie State coach Mike Manderino can’t single out one thing that’s most responsible for his team’s sudden surge. The Pioneers, according to Manderino, have improved in just about every way over the last few weeks.
“When you lose it’s never just one thing and when you start to win it’s never just one thing,” he said. “We’re eliminating mistakes, we’re making better plays. We’re playing good defense.”
Prairie State has won five of its last six games in improving to 8-15 overall and 4-3 in the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference.
The streak could be at six straight. The Pioneers topped Elgin 88-79 on Jan. 30, but it later was discovered that a reserve on Prairie State’s roster was no longer taking the minimum of 12 credit hours of classes and thus was academically ineligible, causing Prairie State to forfeit.
The Pioneers, however, continued their surge Tuesday, topping Morton — the first-place team in the Skyway — 81-76.
“We played some of our best basketball and some of our worst in that game,” Manderino said. “We built a big lead and we didn’t close out the game well. They came back and it came down to the wire, but it was a big win.”
The Pioneers have been bolstered by the return of forward Adrian Jeffries (Morgan Park), who has averaged 16.2 points per game in seven games since returning after undergoing a heart procedure. Joe Hughes (Thornwood) has also returned from injury and scored 15 points in the win over Morton.
Manderino also pointed to the improved play of freshman point guard Rodney Smith as a key.
“We’ve been talking all year about how our goal has been just to get better every day,” Manderino said. “We’re gaining confidence with every win.”
Chemistry key for Lewis
According to center Kyle Nelson, Lewis has a team that truly gets along on and off the court.
“The chemistry on this team is unlike anything I’ve ever been around,” he said. “We don’t get down ourselves. We have confidence in each other and we know that even when we’re down in a game, we can come back and win.”
Guard Ryan Jackson, the team’s leading scorer at 18.4 points per game, agreed.
“We’re a team that knows how to respond when we get knocked down,” he said. “We’re not going to lay down. We’re going to take it right back to you.”
The Flyers improved to 16-3 overall and 8-3 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference with Saturday’s win over St. Joseph’s.
A bright spot
Though Moraine Valley (5-18, 1-7) continues to struggle, guard Johnte Shannon (Thornwood) is having a big season. Shannon scored 35 points in a Jan. 23 loss to Elgin and is averaging 15.6 points per game.