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Boys Basketball: Bloom outlasts Crete-Monee to secure share of Southland title

Bloom's Zerell Jacks(1) draws defensive pressure from Crete-Monee's Rashad Lee (50). | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

Bloom's Zerell Jackson (1) draws defensive pressure from Crete-Monee's Rashad Lee (50). | Allen Cunningham/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 24, 2014 6:23AM



Bloom wrapped up a piece of the Southland Conference title for the third consecutive year Friday night, edging relentless Crete-Monee 57-55 in Steger.

To listen to Blazing Trojans forward Jared Johnson, the conference championship simply is a stepping stone to greater goals.

“It’s big, but really not that big,” said Johnson, who earned game-high scoring honors with 23 points. “I want to get far in the tournament. Get a regional, a sectional and get downstate.”

For now, Bloom (15-8, 8-1) will have to settle for conference notoriety. Despite a short bench — only nine players suited up for Crete-Monee (13-11, 5-4) — victory didn’t come easily for the Blazing Trojans.

That mostly was because of the play of Crete-Monee’s Rashad Lee, who for the second consecutive game registered a career-high 17 points. Not only did Lee, a four-year varsity member, produce on offense, he held Bloom’s James Coleman to just two points on the night.

“That’s a couple in a row now for Lee,” Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel said of his center’s quality performance. “Maybe he’s listening more.”

Lee’s effort, however, wasn’t enough to pull off the upset.

Bloom appeared to have the game well in hand in the fourth quarter, leading 52-42 with three minutes and change remaining. But a putback and three-point play by Lee ignited a Warriors comeback that had Cappel’s team within 56-53 with 50 seconds left.

Crete-Monee closed to within 57-55 on a basket by Tyler Williams (16 points), but only two seconds remained on the clock. Bloom was able to survive.

“I’m proud of the way the kids played short-handed,” Cappel said.

Mike Nelson added 14 points for Crete-Monee. Mickhiell Harris had 14 points for Bloom, which trailed 13-12 early in the second quarter before Johnson took over. The forward scored 11 of his 23 points in the period, leading Bloom to a 28-22 halftime advantage.

“We want the ball in his (Johnson) hands,” Bloom coach Ron Ashlaw said. “He has good decision-making and is a good finisher.”

Finishing games has been somewhat of a problem for Bloom under Ashlaw, in his first year as coach. Where longtime coach Jasper Williams, who retired at the end of the 2012-13 season, demanded relentless defense and high-percentage shooting, Ashlaw gives the Blazing Trojans considerable freedom.

It’s been an adjustment for Ashlaw and the players.

“In years past, big people would step up and take over,” Johnson said. “Now, people just don’t want to play as a team, don’t think they get enough shots and start pouting. We have to play as a team.”



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