NORMAL – Both the real and psychological effects of six blocked shots helped the MacArthur basketball team down University High, 60-51, on Friday.
With 6-foot-8 Kaeden Lawary protecting the rim and Keon Jones filling the net, MacArthur improved to 6-8 overall and 2-4 in the Central State Eight Conference while U High slipped to 9-6 and 4-2. The Pioneers’ only other league setback came against MacArthur, 65-63, on Dec. 4.
“I think early in the game, when they altered some shots and blocked some shots, it affected us,” said U High coach Andrew McDowell, whose team couldn’t overcome .294 field goal shooting, 13 turnovers and nine missed free throws.
“I’d like to see our guys remain more confident and continue to go in there and compete at the rim. If they block it, they block it. You’ve got to keep playing. It definitely affected us in our confidence and ability to score inside as the game went on.”
The Pioneers’ 6-4 Nate Torres tried to attack the rim, but had three shots blocked on one possession before finally tying the game at 30 with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer by Drew Wollenschlager, who shared team-high scoring honors with Torres at 14, later put U High on top, 42-38.
The deadly shooting Jones then sank a 3-pointer to spark a 16-0 run for MacArthur. He contributed nine points to that flurry en route to 19. U High committed five turnovers during that swoon. It’s 13-of-22 free throw woes saw five misses in the final 4:50.
“In a tight game, you’ve got to value possessions,” McDowell said. “You’ve got to make free throws. We’re never going to beat Decatur MacArthur if we turn the ball over like that and we don’t score inside and don’t make free throws. It’s not a recipe to win games.”
MacArthur’s Kari Taliferro scored 11 points while the towering Lawary grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to help the Generals win the battle of the boards, 39-35.
The Generals used a 7-0 run to go up 20-12 with 4:40 left in the second period. The Pioneers answered with a 16-5 half-ending surge to lead, 28-25, at intermission. U High’s flurry began with seven points from Torres, who finished with nine rebounds, and ended with unanswered 3-pointers by Wollenschlager, Alex Wood and Keenan Portis.
“We shared the ball,” McDowell said of that successful stretch. “We didn’t dribble unless it was with a purpose. We passed up good shots for great shots. We kind of played basketball the way we want to play for that four-minute stretch and that was about it for the whole night.”
Jones, who is getting looks from Division II and junior college recruiters, finished 7-of-14 from the field and grabbed eight rebounds.
“He’s tough to cover,” McDowell said. “He made some tough shots.”
MacArthur, which had 14 turnovers, shot .429 from the field.
“We’ve been working on playing hard for four quarters,” said MacArthur coach Ron Ingram. “That’s what we did today.
“Even when they came back and took the lead, we didn’t give up and hang our heads like we usually do. We average 16 or 17 turnovers a game. It’s usually not the amount of turnovers we get, it’s when we get them. Sometimes we’ll get like nine in the fourth quarter.”