Boys’ basketball places second in the Bill VanderMerkt Thanksgiving Classic

Will Kincanon came up clutch against Brother Rice, as he hit the go ahead three with about 2:00 left on the clock.

Will Kincanon came up clutch against Brother Rice, as he hit the go ahead three with about 2:00 left on the clock.

Steven Baer, Sports Editor

Over the Thanksgiving Break, the Bulldog boys’ basketball team was hard at work at work as they competed in the annual Bill VandeMerkt Thanksgiving Classic.

The Bulldogs opened up their season against a solid Rich Central team. The first game jitters may have had an effect on the Bulldogs, as turnovers were a problem throughout. The Dogs eventually fell 80-68. A bright spot in the opening loss was Sam Johnson’s 27 point performance.

The next day the Bulldogs bounced back by taking down Kenwood, 80-76, for their first win of the season. Senior Jack VandeMerkt led the way for the Dogs with 24 points and nine rebounds.

Following Thanksgiving Day the Bulldogs were right back at it as they went head to head with Brother Rice. It was a see-saw battle throughout, but with about three minutes left on the clock, it looked as though the Bulldogs were going to come out on the short end of the game. The Bulldogs however, had different plans. They went on a furious comeback, thanks to the help of gritty defense and some clutch shots, including a 3-pointer by Will Kincanon that capped off the turnaround, and gave the Bulldogs a 65-64 lead with two minutes left on the clock. Junior Kevin Fitzgerald hit some big free throws to ice the game and help the Dogs to improve to 2-1, and earn a berth into the championship game of the tournament against OPRF.

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure if we were gonna come away with it,” Johnson said,”I mean, down 10, three minutes to go, it wasn’t looking great. But we made some big shots, and had some big steals. It was a great win.”

OPRF, who went into the championship game at ranked in the top 25 by the Chicago Tribune, was the heavy favorite. The Bulldogs put forth a valiant effort but at the end of the day OPRF’s talent was too much. The Dogs fell to the Huskies  84-71 in what was a dog fight,( no pun intended).

Still, the team is looking at the bright side.

“We put up 70 on one of the best teams in the state, we got a lot to be proud of,” Johnson said.

The Dogs are coming off of a 2012-2013 season in which they went 21-7, and earned their twelth consecutive conference championship. The Bulldogs will have varsity studs VandeMerkt and Kincanon returning for their senior seasons. Along with them, the 6’5” sharpshooting, junior Johnson will also be looking to lead the the Bulldogs to another conference championship, and possibly more.

“First and foremost, our goal is to win another conference title,” said Johnson,”After that a couple of playoff games, a regional championship, and from there who knows?”

The Bulldogs will be trying to fill the holes left by star point guard, Damonta Henery, and big man Miki Ljuboja, who both graduated last year. They’ll try to do this with the help of Sopomores Mark Smith and Daniko Jackson.  Last season the 6’7” center, Mark Smith, helped the sophomore team to a 21-3 mark, and point guard, Daniko Jackson, led the freshmen basketball team to an undefeated season.  They’ll both look to translate that success to the varsity level this season.

“I just got to move the ball around and get everybody involved,” said Jackson,” If we work hard and do what we’re supposed to do we should have a good season.”