Boys Basketball: West Side can’t claw backCougars #15 takes a short jumper in the 3rd period against 2 Morgan Park defenders at the Genesis Center in Gary on Friday Nov 25, 2011. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 9, 2012 10:03AM
GARY — Morgan Park (Ill.) was bigger and faster than West Side on Friday night.
But the Cougars were more physical — as they needed to be — fighting and clawing underneath the rim, picking up numerous offensive rebounds.
It wasn’t enough, though.
The Warriors jumped out to a 26-11 lead and never trailed from that point on, winning the first game 57-48 in the fourth annual Lakeshore Classic at the Genesis Center.
West Side’s Arnold Wilson hit the first bucket of the game but Morgan Park’s quickness had the Cougars’ defense off-balance as the Warriors hit basket after basket to take a quick 7-2 lead.
Morgan Park continued its offensive proficiency as Billy Garrett and Torry Johnson combined for three 3-pointers in the first quarter and put together a 23-11 lead.
“One thing we want to stress this year is getting off to a good start,” said Warriors coach Nick Irvin, who played for Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State University. “We can’t get behind. We want to start off on top and let them play catch up.”
West Side coach Winston Garland said that’s been the trouble with his team the past two games — getting behind early.
“If you wait till the last minute — nine times out of 10 — you’re not going to make it,” he said of his team’s 0-2 start. “So we’ve been trying to change our mindset like that saying: ‘Let’s become the aggressor instead of counterpunching.’
“In the first two ballgames, that’s what’s happened. We get down and now we have to storm back and we’re not built for that.”
The Cougars did creep back slowly in the second quarter, outscoring Morgan Park 14-7 to go into halftime trailing 30-25.
Free throws kept West Side close as the Cougars knocked down 10-of-12 in the second quarter.
Wilson also had a big hand keeping the Cougars around. He finished with a team-high 16 points and nine rebounds. Teammate Rashaad Armstrong also had nine rebounds as West Side was physical in the paint.
“We’ve been talking about toughness,” Garland said. “We’ve been trying to amp that intensity up in practice. So that’s what we’re going to try to rely on. We want to be able to outscore many people so we’ve got to do the little things.”
Morgan Park was too much in the end, though, building a 47-35 lead early in the fourth quarter. Johnson and Garrett scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, to lead the Warriors.