Boys’ hoops team makes return trip downstate

Boys hoops team makes return trip downstate

Joffari Brown, Staff writer

For the second consecutive season, St. Joseph’s boys basketball team qualified for the IHSA Class 3A state tournament. Unlike in 2015, this season, the Chargers couldn’t repeat the magic and instead of coming home with a state championship, the team brought back a fourth place trophy instead. The following is sophomore Joffari Brown’s account of the trip downstate and the season as a whole.

“Being a sophomore and going downstate again is the best feeling you can have. The difference between this year and last year is that last year I was just a freshman, but this year was tough because we had a target on our backs and no one expected us to be able to do a repeat trip downstate.

In fact, no one expected us to get out of sectionals, even, but we stuck together as a team and got the job done and proved everyone wrong. Once we beat Fenwick (59-55 in the sectional finals – avenging a loss to the Friars in the CCL Championship game), I knew we were going back downstate because we were on a roll and when we get on a roll like that, it’s nearly impossible to beat us.

The unfortunate thing is that when we got downstate, we had to play Belleville Althoff, the same team we beat last year for the state title and we knew they would be out for blood. They really wanted to beat us. Unfortunately, we fell short in that game (by a 66-62 score) seeing we were a younger team this year, but to lose by four our hopes are still up for next year.

You could say that last year was a better experience because we won the championship, but had a lot of fun this year, too. I think that next year, we will be in a dog fight every game because, again, a lot of teams will still be gunning for us. Even though we move up a class next year (the IHSA moves schools up a class when they have too much success at one level), I think we can still go back downstate even though we’re losing (senior) Nick (Rakocevic), but we return everyone else.”

The Chargers went 24-10 this year, opening the season with 11 straight victories while taking the St. Charles East Thanksgiving Tournament championship. Their first two losses of the season came at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and was part of a stretch that saw them go 2-6 from late December to early January. By taking that stretch out, though, the Chargers went 22-4 over the rest of the season, reaching the CCL Championship game before falling to Fenwick.

Rakocevic was the Chargers leading scorer and rebounder in each of their first 12 games this year and the senior led the Chargers for the season scoring 20 points per game while collecting 15 rebounds per game. Brown added 10 points and four rebounds per game for the Chargers, with a supporting cast consisting of juniors Jason Towers (6 points, 4 rebounds per game) and Lavon Thomas (5 points and 6 rebounds per game) and freshman Marquise Walker, who averaged nine points per game.

Once in the playoffs, the Chargers opened with an easy victory over Chicago Perspectives in the regional opener before needing a buzzer-beater from Ahmad Muhammad to beat Phillips 58-57 for the regional title. From there, St. Joseph beat North Lawndale 68-67 in the sectional final and then beat the rival Friars for the sectional title before topping Ridgewood 52-35 for the Supersectional title.