Bolingbrook isn’t quite as dominant as it has been in recent years, but don’t tell that to the other teams in the Southwest Suburban Blue.
Despite graduating eight of their top nine players, the Raiders have continued to dominate their conference foes, with the latest performance a 63-24 rout of host Lockport on Thursday.
Bolingbrook (16-5, 10-0) now has won their league games by an average of 41.2 points. That includes a one-point win over Homewood-Flossmoor, the only close call the Raiders have had.
But the easy wins haven’t stopped Bolingbrook coach Anthony Smith from demanding more from his players, most of whom are new to the program.
“That’s the problem I’m struggling with right now,” Smith said. “These kids don’t understand. They just come in and say, ‘oh, we have a game today.’ We’re the team [people] judge [themselves against] in the state. Our kids don’t understand yet how hard and how long they’ve got to work.
“Today wasn’t our best game. As long as we’re going to play a game, we’re going to go out there and try to get better.”
Lockport (9-12, 3-7) actually took a 1-0 lead in the sloppy contest that saw each team make 32 turnovers. But the Raiders responded with a 15-1 run to end the first quarter and didn’t allow the Porters to score their first basket until Destiny Hollins, who led the Porters with eight points, made a layup with 3:00 left in the second quarter.
By then, the game was already out of reach as the visitors held a 24-7 cushion and increased it to 35-12 at intermission. While Bolingbrook’s offense was inconsistent, the defense was stellar, coming up with 24 steals.
Junior guard Aysia Bugg led the way for the Raiders with 17 points and six steals. Destiny Harris also had six steals, while Kennedy Cattenhead and Ashley Drain each had three.
“We kind of know the teams in our conference, so we’re looking at a bigger picture,” Bugg said. “We’re not worried about conference. It’s more like playoffs. That’s all we’re worried about now.”
Of course, Smith worries about all the little things it takes to be great, which is why he was yelling instructions throughout the game and even took a timeout with 23 seconds left to impart some wisdom. Bugg, a transfer from Oswego East, said that took some getting used to.
“It’s definitely different,” Bugg said. “I’m used to it now. I appreciate him. He’s probably one of the best coaches in the country.
“Every time we play we remember what he’s working for. Of course we want to win every game we play, [but] it’s the little things we build on for our future.”
Smith believes that future is bright. The Raiders, who are the No. 1 seed at the Class 4A Oswego Sectional, have lost only twice to in-state opponents and figure to be a tough out in the playoffs. They beat Lockport even with Cattenhead, an Illinois recruit, scoring only two points because Kristen Moore had 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting, along with seven rebounds, and Amarah Coleman tallied 11 points, sinking 5 of 7 shots.
“Overall, this season is not our typical season, but in all five losses we had a chance,” Smith said. “We just didn’t go out there and grab that chance.
“I think this is a great group. We don’t have the blue-chippers but we have blue-collar. We don’t play for one game or a score. We play each possession like it’s our last. We demand this every time we touch the floor.”