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Men’s basketball looks to improve on defense for playoffs

Ashley Clark

DROPPIN’ THE BALL: During their game against Evanston on Jan. 29, junior captain Jimmy Martinelli (left) jumps above the Wildkit defenders for a shot, senior Chase Daniel (middle) looks for an open pass and junior Daniel Jenkins (right) escapes from Wildkit defenders. The Titans were winning by four at the end of the first quarter, but ended up losing to Evanston 46-75.

CASSIDY JACKSON, staff reporter

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Halfway through the season, the men’s basketball team has gone from a record of 7-2 to a record of 8-10, and the men are hoping to get back to their strong play, according to senior captain Sean McDonagh.

“We started off really strong, but lately it’s been off,” McDonagh said. “I think we are in a weird funk right now. We just haven’t been playing with the same fight, and so we have to get back to that competitive mindset.”

According to head coach Ben Widner, the team’s record does not portray the team’s ability.

“I’m not satisfied with the record, because I think we are capable of being better,” Widner said.

The root of the team’s downfall was the Wheeling Tournament, according to McDonagh. The team faced Vernon Hills, Niles North, Buffalo Grove and Dundee Crown. The team left Wheeling High School with a record of 1-3.

“That was where our struggles started,” McDonagh said. “Ever since then we just haven’t been playing our basketball.”

Junior captain Jimmy Martinelli believes the team’s worst defeat was during the Wheeling Tournament against Buffalo Grove.

“[We should have won] against Buffalo Grove,” Martinelli said. “We didn’t play to our best ability. I think [we could have] had a stronger defense.”

Despite the slump they’re facing, senior captain George Mavrakis feels they’ve had successful matches throughout the season, specifically against Niles West.

“As a team, we’re well rounded,” Mavrakis said. “[We] have a deep bench, and anyone could come off the bench and play well. I can’t say the same about Niles West.”

In contrast, McDonagh believes the most successful game was against Vernon Hills at the Wheeling tournament even though it did not end in their favor.

“We lost our best game [at the tournament] by one point against Vernon Hills [49-48], and that was the only game out of the four that I was proud of,” McDonagh said.

The team came back after winter break hoping to get a win against rival New Trier, according to Martinelli. Yet, the team walked off the court after losing 55-40.

“It was a good game until the fourth quarter when we started to break down,” Martinelli said. “We weren’t executing our plays, and we weren’t playing good defense and they were, so they were getting a lot of easier points off of us.”

McDonagh agrees with Martinelli about the team’s gradual downfall throughout the game.

“It was a close game throughout, then they went on a run and we couldn’t bounce back from it,” McDonagh said. “One of our problems is that when something goes bad, we don’t bounce back. When New Trier is hot they’re hard to stop.”

The team also took a tough defeat against Palatine the next day, according to Martinelli.

“Palatine [was] a solid team, and it was close until the second half when they began to pull away,” Martinelli said. “We played good offense but not good defense.”

The competitiveness of New Trier or Palatine didn’t compare to Maine South, according to Mavrakis, because they are ranked in the top 10 of the state.

“It’s understandable [that they won], because they are ranked high in the state,” Mavrakis said. “I look forward to challenging the top teams in the state to see where [we] stand next to them. So for Maine South, we have a lot of work to do before we can compete with them. I wouldn’t say that their [individual] level is through the roof, but they work well as a unit.”

With the team going through a hard slump, McDonagh doesn’t seem to feel as though all responsibility is on his shoulders.

“I don’t […] feel any extra pressure for being  [a] captain,” McDonagh said.  “[However, I am a player] looked at to score. It definitely seems to be me and a couple of guys’ job to set the tone and keep the bar high. I [don’t] think we can settle for how we’ve been doing. ”

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Men’s basketball looks to improve on defense for playoffs