Weekend rewind: Thoughts from a busy weekend of high school basketballon February 22, 2021 at 3:48 pm

You can’t start talking about this past weekend without talking about what will likely go down as the game of the year. It’s going to be difficult to top what went down Saturday night in Oak Park.

Notre Dame and Fenwick, a pair of highly-ranked teams, went to overtime where Louis Lesmond ended it in unbelievable fashion. With the game tied, Lesmond grabbed a defensive rebound with just a few seconds left, took two dribbles and let it fly from about 55 feet. Game over.

Behind Lesmond’s 35 points and heroic shot, Notre Dame walked out of Fenwick with a 71-68 win in overtime.

Might the 6-5 Harvard-bound senior have added his name to legitimate Player of the Year contenders?

It was always going to be difficult for any Notre Dame player to be in the conversation. The trio of Lesmond, Troy D’Amico and Anthony Sayles are too balanced, share the wealth and are very efficient in their smaller number of shot attempts.

Yes, Fenwick dropped its first game of the season in heartbreaking fashion to Notre Dame. The good news, however, is that junior David Gieser is back from injury.

The 6-2 Gieser is a floor-spacing shooter who was huge in the comeback against Notre Dame Saturday night with monster three-pointers. And it’s exactly the type of player the Friars need to surround star Bryce Hopkins with in the second half of this abbreviated season.

DePaul Prep impresses

Watching DePaul on Friday night was a reminder that coach Tom Kleinschmidt is really good at his job.

Yes, there is the building of the program into what is now a perennial power in the Catholic League. That goes without saying and stands out. But from a basketball standpoint it’s about utilizing the talent he has at his disposal each year.

There was to be some ragged play after having played just one game thus far when it squared off with St. Ignatius Friday night. But in addition to turning defense into offense — this program will always be defensive-minded first — Kleinschmidt allows both TY Johnson and Rasheed Bello to create, play more downhill and forces defenses to pick their poison in coverages.

There is less of a grind offensively.

In a normal year, this team is a legitimate Class 3A state title contender with its combination of versatile firepower and the defense it plays.

John Poulakidas bounces back

The Neuqua Valley performance against Waubonsie Valley on Friday was startling — and one to forget for the Wildcats. Neuqua fell behind its rival early, trailing 40-11 at the half, before eventually losing 70-28.

But they bounced back with a convincing win over a previously unbeaten Burlington Central team on Saturday.

The signature moment of the weekend, however, came on John Poulakidas’ third basket of the game in the win over the Rockets. The 6-5 senior surpassed 1,300 career points and became the all-time leading scorer in Neuqua Valley history.

Neuqua Valley's John Poulakidas (32) drives down the lane as Waubonsie Valley's Ben Schweiger (3) defends.
Neuqua Valley’s John Poulakidas (32) drives down the lane as Waubonsie Valley’s Ben Schweiger (3) defends.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Many would have thought the program’s greatest player, Dwayne Evans, who went on to star collegiately at Saint Louis, would have been the all-time leading scorer at Neuqua. But it was Keelan Amelianovich who Poulakidas passed. Amelianovich had an All-American career at the Division III level playing at Illinois Wesleyan.

Fortunately this shortened season didn’t derail what was going to be an obvious milestone for Poulakidas, who is headed to Yale next season.

Andrew is dangerous

Always pesky Andrew, where coach Dave Wilson has done an outstanding job keeping that program competitive, was back at being pesky again this past weekend. The Thunderbolts handed Bolingbrook its first loss of the season with a 52-45 win on the road.

Andrew, led by Jolo Amoranto, is now on top of the Southwest Suburban Red. It was 28 years since the last time Andrew won a conference title when Wilson’s Thunderbolts broke through with a league title in 2018. Now they’re on the verge again.

Amoranto, the little lefty who is averaging 20 points a game, is a fun player to watch and a nice small college basketball prospect.

Josh Harris hits 1,000

Saturday’s win over Westmont was a memorable night at Timothy Christian where senior Josh Harris, who is headed to Division III Illinois College, scored his 1,000th career point. Plus, junior Ben Vander Wal threw down an eye-popping baseline dunk. If you get a chance, check out his baseline dunk on social media.

Naperville North turns it around

A little rocky 1-3 start to the season for Naperville North turned positive very quickly this past week, beating rival Naperville Central 57-49 and handing neighboring Benet its first loss of the season, 43-30.

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