By Paul D. Bowker
Even a famous dad can laugh at an air ball.
In the middle of the second quarter of Whitney Young High School’s game against Homewood-Flossmoor in the Public League Shootout last Sunday, Young’s Marcus Jordan pulled up short of the 3-point line and let the ball fly. Nothing unusual about that. Jordan can indeed shoot.
Except this time, the ball fell short of its mark, and hit nothing except the arms of an opposing player underneath the basket.
Shouts of “air ball, air ball” echoed down from the stands at Chicago State University, perhaps more targeted in humor at Marcus’ iconic dad than Marcus himself.
Michael Jordan, watching his son play from a front-row seat, laughed. He appreciated the moment, fully knowing that his son drilled a shot just a minute earlier.
Marcus Jordan, one of the game’s most dominant players in a 58-56 Young victory, scored 17 points for the Dolphins, including 13 in the first half when they led by as many as 13 points. It was a performance worthy of a Jordan.
Oh, maybe except for the air ball. Will dad actually tease son about that?
“He probably might joke around me,” Marcus Jordan said afterward, chuckling. “But it was no big deal.”
What was a big deal is the lead that the Dolphins blew Sunday night in the annual city Shootout, and there wasn’t a happy Dolphin among them afterward.
The Dolphins grabbed a 13-point lead in just six minutes against Homewood-Flossmoor, going ahead 15-2. At one point, the Dolphins had hit three consecutive 3-pointers – by Anthony Johnson, Ahmad Starks and Jordan.
But Young scored just eight points in the third quarter, and struggled in the final quarter as an 11-point lead dwindled to a two-point lead with six seconds left. As the game went on, Homewood-Flossmoor seemed to gain mountains of confidence.
“I’m proud of our kids. They fought their tails off. To be down 14 and to be able to come all the way back and have a chance to win the game against that much talent. We’re going to take the loss, hopefully learn from it and use it as something that can motivate us later in the season.”
If not for back-to-back baskets by Johnson in the final 1:20, Young may not have pulled this one out. A 3-point shot by H-F did hit, but it came after the buzzer.
“That was like a loss to us,” Starks said. “We didn’t execute at the end.”
“It was partly relaxing and making bad decisions,” Jordan said. “It was kind of a snowball effect.”
Sunday’s game followed a long bus ride from Benton, Ky., where the Dolphins opened their season Saturday night with a 69-55 loss to nationally-ranked St. Benedict’s (N.J.). Jordan wasn’t blaming the trip, though.
“We can’t blame the bus ride. We just slipped up mentally,” he said.
Wednesday night, playing their first home game, the Dolphins were back on track. Johnson scored 13 points and Jordan had 12 in a 71-39 victory over Manley.
Big win for Thornton
While Young’s team was supposed to be the marquee act on the second night of the Public League Shootout, Thornton stole the show.
Somehow, the Wildcats overcame a 33-point performance by Simeon’s Jeremy Jones and took a 74-69 victory in double overtime.
“The last three or four years, we lost to Simeon. This was a big step for us,” said Thornton’s Reggie Smith, who scored five points in the second overtime. “We’ve been talking about this (game) since the season started.”
But this was not easy.
In regulation, the Wildcats had the game won, and Jones scored eight points in the final 1:08 to force overtime.
In the first overtime, the Wildcats had it won, and Jones hit two 3-pointers.
“Oh, man, that guy had radar or something,” said Thornton coach Troy Jackson.
“I didn’t think he was ever going to miss,” Smith said.
Thornton finally pulled away in the second overtime, leading by seven points at one point. It was the second consecutive loss for Simeon, which lost 58-52 to nationally-ranked Oak Hill Academy (Wilson, Va.) on Saturday night at Benton, Ky., the same tournament in which Young played Saturday.
In three games, Jones is averaging 22.6 points per game.
Basketball: CPS targets paddling
Two Chicago boys basketball coaches, Mandel Oliver of Morgan Park and Courtney Hargrays of Marshall, were fired by Chicago Public Schools for paddling incidents.
CPS chief Arne Duncan, a possible candidate for Secretary of Education in the Barack Obama presidency, is targeting reports of paddling. Six other incidents are under investigation.
“Anyplace where this is found, we’re going to fire the coach,” said Duncan, who regularly plays basketball with Obama.
Assistant coach Henry Cotton is now the head coach at Marshall, and Nick Irvin is the new coach at Morgan Park.
Also absent from the bench early this season is Whitney Young head coach Tyrone Slaughter, who is serving a six-game suspension due to recruiting violations.
Tourney time: Loyola hosts Windy City Showdown
Teams from four states will play in the Windy City Showdown on Dec. 20 at Loyola University.
Milwaukee Madison begins the action at 1 p.m., facing St. Joseph’s (Ill.).
The evening games will feature Detroit Country Day against DeLaSalle Institute of Illinois at 6:45, and Lawrence North, Ind., facing Chicago power Simeon at 8:30.
Girls basketball: Bolingbrook, Young in Shootout
Games have been announced for the 19th annual Girls Classic Shootout to be held in January at Villa Park, and the lineup includes nationally ranked Bolingbrook and Whitney Young.
Bolingbrook will play Washington High of South Bend, Ind., at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 17. Young, which has won seven of its first eight games and is the defending Illinois Class 4A champ, will play Wheeling at 7 p.m. Jan. 19.
The tournament will be held Jan. 16, 17 and 19 at Willowbrook High School in Villa Park.
Football: Waukegan coach resigns
A 2-7 record at Waukegan High School this year led head football coach Pat Jennings to resign his position. A special-education teacher, Jennings has accepted a teaching position at Lakeview High, which is closer to his home on the North Side.
“We are deeply appreciative for the time Pat spent at Waukegan. We are sorry to see him go, and we wish him and his family the very best,” Waukegan athletics director David Perkins told the Sun-Times News Group.
Wrestling: Dundee-Crown wins tourney
Five Dundee-Crown wrestlers won championships at the Hinsdale South Invitational last Saturday, leading the Chargers to the team title. Cody Muscat (145 pounds), Jeremy Lee (125), Jermaine Lee (130), Frank Abitua (119) and Jack Lewis (160) won individual championships.
Jake Schramm (103) and Ryan Garringer (171) won championships for Hinsdale South.
Paul Bowker covers the Chicago area for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com