With three tournament wins by margins of 37, 19 and 29 points, one would assume Zion-Benton boys basketball coach Don Kloth has been able to go deep into his bench to get an early-season look at every player on his roster.
Not so. Only nine players suited up for Wednesday’s 80-51 thumping of host Lane in the Thanksgiving Week tournament in Chicago because the other half of the veteran coach’s squad — what, for now, is the JV half — is filling in at a varsity tournament this week in McHenry County.
And with Zion’s sophomores playing in a tourney in Lake Villa, Kloth — the winningest coach in Lake County boys hoops history — only has nine players available to rotate around.
On Wednesday, the rotating ended with Milik Yarbrough scoring 19 points, 6-6 Jerome Davis 12 and 6-5 junior Admiral Schofield adding 11. The Zee-Bees were 19-of-26 from the foul line and hit four three-pointers.
Lane scored on a putback to make it 15-14 with 1:48 left in the first quarter, and Zion-Benton then outscored the home team 56-29 over the next 19:23
“I think we came out a little unprepared because we were looking at this as an easy game,” said Yarbrough, who should end this season as the all-time career scoring leader in Lake County basketball history (currently, he’s No. 3).
“They came out with a lot of energy on their home floor, but we stepped up our game in the second and third quarters and built our lead to the point that we could relax a little bit.
“We just feel really good about the way things are going,” Yarbrough added.
“Jerome has been a great addition. He rebounds, runs the floor really well, and powers his way to the rim. Admiral gives us another player who can score the ball. Even the guys coming back have improved a lot from last year. We don’t want the same thing that happened in the sectional (a sectional semifinal loss to St. Viator) to happen again this year.”
Certainly Lane coach Nick Logalbo was impressed.
“When you play against a Division I player, and probably more than one, you know it’s going to be a challenge. Coach Kloth has been around for 30 years and does a great job,” he said.
The past two games we started out slow, and we placed an emphasis on running our offense and defense right from the start. I thought we did a nice job in the first quarter. Unfortunately, when you play a team as athletic as they are, you have to take care of the ball. I think we had 27 turnovers. We have to be better than that.”
Junior forward Simon Negash had 13 points to lead Lane. The Indians were 5-of-25 shooting from behind the arc.
Having watched his team for three days now — Game 4 is Friday against Evanston — Kloth is liking what he’s seeing.
“We’re getting better each day. Our practices have been really good, and we’re just sort of approaching it as every practice we try to get better and every game we try to get better.” he said. “Every game down here has been an entirely different style. It’s been a positive week so far.”
That said, the veteran coach did say, “We need to improve in every area.”
One player who’s growing up fast is Schofield, whose brother O’Brien Schofield plays linebacker for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks.
“We always want to get better, but we’re very confident in our ability to win as a team,” he said. “Our goal is to play a team game and make sure we’re doing the right things every possession. As the game goes on and we start to feel it, we embrace each other. It doesn’t matter who is scoring the points. If Milik scores 30, it doesn’t matter. We embrace it, because we win as a team.
“Tonight was a good team win. There were a lot of highlight plays. It was a good, fun game.”