The absence of a Thanksgiving tournament and three COVID-caused cancellations poked holes in Leo’s basketball schedule, leaving the Lions with 13 games played as opposed to the 16 to 18 most of their rivals have logged over the first six weeks of the season.
Coach Jamal Thompson has no complaints about his team’s 11-2 record, which includes a 6-0 Catholic League mark following a weekend home sweep of Marmion and Providence-St. Mel that stretched Leo’s winning streak to five.
“A lot of that is the result of our defense—for the most part, we’ve played excellent defense,” Thompson said.
Leo is allowing 48.7 points per game and has held five opponents under 50.
The Lions’ guard-dominated lineup features good ballhandlers who are adept at creating good shots for each other. The tallest starter is senior Austin Ford, generously listed as 6-foot-3, but the Lions have held their own on the boards despite a size disadvantage in almost every game.
“We have emphasized team rebounding all year—everybody has to rebound, and the guys have bought into it,” Thompson said. “Austin and Cam (Cleveland) have been strong on the boards, and the other guards are going down there and getting us four or five rebounds a game as well. It’s what we have to do.”
But it’s not unreasonable to suggest the party’s over. There’s no St. Francis de Sales or Providence-St. Mel on the remaining schedule, which features five more January games. The five opponents—Hillcrest, Montini, Loyola, Mt. Carmel and Pontiac in the Herscher Shootout—have a combined record of 65-27.
In February the Lions draw Catholic League leaders Brother Rice (16-2) and DePaul Prep (13-3) at home and St. Rita (12-5) on the road, plus Oak Forest (16-3) in the Evergreen Park Shootout.
“But that’s good,” Thompson said. “You improve by playing better people. I’m happy with where we are. We’ve played pretty well, but there’s room for improvement, definitely, and if we keep putting in the work we’ll keep improving.