Heading into the McDipper Tournament, the Joliet Central boys basketball team had not played its best basketball and the Steelmen went in looking for answers.
Those answers were not found early as Central opened the tournament with a pair of losses.
First the Steelmen lost 62-59 to Tinley Park behind 20 points from Kenyon Woodfork and 15 points from Ternell Jordan and then fell 79-67 to King before defeating Seton Academy 73-63.
After beating Seton, Central fell in the fifth-place consolation game, 56-44 to University High.
Kewon Ware led the team with 16.
In the lone win, Jerry Gillispie was 4-for-4 from three-points land to finish with 26 points to lead the Steelmen.
Central had four scorers in double figures, as Malik Fuller added 14 points, Kenyon Woodfork tallied 12 and Kewon Ware score 11.
“Coach told us someone had to step up and get the team going because we had been on a losing streak,” Gillispie said. “Today we played a as a team. At the beginning of the tournament, we were not playing well. We played as a unit. Ternell Jordan got us to where we needed to be at the beginning of the game, then Kenyon got going and Kewon came in and took a couple of charges and then Malik Fuller got a few blocked shots and got everyone going.”
Although he did not want to be in that situation, Central coach Jeff Corcoran said the fact that the team had to defeat Seton to play the fourth game of the tournament was a good lesson.
“With what happened the first two days, we just talked about living to fight another day,” Corcoran said. “This game was a great way to prepare for the regional in that it was a win or go home.”
He also said the team was looking for a spark like the one they got from Gillespie and he liked how the other scorers reacted.
“We have been talking, should we have played a game before we played here? Did we have too many days to prepare? We have all been looking for what the problem is and we need someone to step up and get it done. It is not just going to happen,” he said. “And when that person steps up, we need someone to follow. It is a testament to the guys because there were some dark days here. I don’t know what it is. We just have to get back to basics.”
Corcoran also said the Steelmen were able to use different players over the course of the four games because of illness and injury and that the production of some of those players could lead to help off the bench down the road.
“We got some good minutes out of some guys that we don’t really go to and that was good,” he said. “Guys got different kind of minutes and got different looks and that is going to be good for us too.”