Bloom plays defense like no otherBloom Head Coach Jasper Williams has a word with his players during a timeout against Edwardsville for the Super Sectional Championship at Illinios State University, Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 in Normal, IL. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 14, 2012 9:19PM
Back in December, when I was standing in the hospitality room at the McDipper, I overheard a referee offer this description of Bloom: “They play defense like they have seven players on the court.”
It’s a perfect description, like a dart firmly secured in the bull’s eye.
There is no debating the key to the Blazing Trojans’ success.
Defense, defense, defense.
That’s not to say the Blazing Trojans lack the skills necessary to put the ball in the basket. The name of the game still is to score more points than your opponent.
While the starting five of Donald Moore, L.J. Johnson, Johnny Griffin, Jataryan Dejaraux and Henry Hicks will not be confused with Phi Slamma Jamma, Bloom has topped 60 points on 12 occasions and 70 points four times.
A team doesn’t win 28 of 31 games, including its last 13, by resembling a bunch of stiffs on the offensive end.
Moore is a quiet assassin, Johnson can attack from the perimeter and in the blocks, and Griffin is a beast inside.
But Bloom’s suffocating defense keeps stealing the spotlight. When you hold 11 of 31 opponents to below 40 points and three under 30, that’s bound to happen.
To execute that level of defense not only takes tremendous energy and efficiency, it takes heart.
Dennis Rodman wasn’t the biggest, strongest or fastest player. But no one wanted rebounds more than he did.
Watching the Blazing Trojans pressure the ballhandler, shut down passing lanes and crash the boards Tuesday during a 53-41 win over Edwardsville in a Class 4A supersectional was, I’d imagine, like witnessing a world-renowned surgeon control a scalpel: It’s work of art, a skill that demands focus.
In the case of Bloom, one missed assignment could cause a breakdown on defense.
For the surgeon, one slip of the scalpel and the procedure might prove fatal.
Of course, Bloom had a few breakdowns against Edwardsville — no one’s perfect. The Tigers were able to execute a few back-door cuts that led to easy layups.
Other than that, Bloom executed its game plan masterfully, resulting in Edwardsville having a deer-in-the headlights look.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense,” Moore said. “For us, it all starts with defense. Denying the passing lanes, hitting the boards ... just playing real hard.”
Now comes the hardest part of all: A Friday date with Simeon at Peoria’s Carver Arena.
Simeon is the Miami Heat of high school basketball.
Jabari Parker is the No. 1-ranked high school player in the country, like LeBron is regarded by most as the No. 1 player in the world.
Like LeBron, Parker’s supporting cast, led by Kendrick Nunn, is tremendously skilled.
Parker has been called a more complete player than fellow Simeon graduate Derrick Rose at the same age. I have to see it to believe it.
The Wolverines are 31-1 and have won two straight state championships and four in the past six years. That’s not a basketball program, it’s a machine.
“We’re going to show up,” Bloom coach Jasper Williams said. “We’re going to play Bloom basketball.”
Or at least try to.
Bloom will need to put forth its greatest effort to have any chance at pulling off one of the greatest upsets in state history.
I know. It’s difficult to call a team that is 28-3 and has played the caliber of competition Bloom has an underdog.
Teams like that generally are favorites.
However, few teams, if any, have possessed the skill level of Simeon.
Even Proviso East, at 31-0, will be considered an underdog against Simeon if the two meet for the 4A championship.
For selfish reasons, mainly Southland pride, I’d prefer to see a Bloom-Proviso East match-up, with the Blazing Trojans winning it all.
“If they played any team in the country, that team is going to be the underdog,” Williams said. “That don’t faze us. It’s a great opportunity for us, the school and the community. Hopefully, we’ll play well. We’re going to give it all we have.”