Orr senior Donell Williams is 6-4 and stumpy. He’s not athletic and isn’t much of a leaper. His coach, Lou Adams, describes him as “not talented.”
Somehow, the untalented, undersized center has helped lead the Spartans’ improbable January run.
Wednesday at Orr, Williams neutralized one of the state’s up-and-coming stars: North Lawndale’s 6-9 Kenneth Perkins. It was the key to the No. 18 Spartans’ 58-54 win.
“[Perkins] didn’t play well today,” North Lawndale coach Lewis Thorpe said. “We needed him and he just didn’t have it. [Williams] did a nice job.”
Perkins had his way with Young last week, but the physical toughness and rebounding know-how of Williams held Perkins to just eight points and seven rebounds. Williams grabbed 15 boards.
“I just work hard and concentrate on boxing out,” Williams said. “[Adams] says I don’t have to worry about anything else.”
Orr doesn’t have a star player. Last year, it had six or seven. But since January 12, the Spartans (14-3, 6-1 Red-West) have beaten Marshall, Farragut, Young, De La Salle and now North Lawndale.
“I didn’t expect this at all,” Adams said. “This was supposed to be a year when we got some guys in shape and just tried to get through it. We’re playing over our heads now. It’s fun.”
Senior Lavonte Sutton (21 points) has handled a lot of the scoring.
The Phoenix (10-9, 2-5) had cut Orr’s lead to 48-46 with 2:48 to play. Sutton took charge, getting to the free-throw line on consecutive possessions and making all four free throws.
Then, with 35 seconds to play and Orr clinging to a 54-52 lead, Sutton drove to the basket, right at Perkins, who had just blocked a shot on Orr’s last possession. He took it to Perkins without fear and scored.
“I knew I could get by him,” Sutton said. “I just had to get it to go off the glass.”
Leon Burns made two free throws with four seconds to play to ice the win.
“We don’t have any All-Americans or anything,” Sutton said. “But we have the chemistry now, we are all just focused on doing the one or two things we can do, we are a real team this year.”
Adams credits senior Jason Newman as the defensive wizard behind the Spartans’ streak.
“He’s one of the best defenders in the state,” Adams said. “Every game he guards the best player and he shuts them down. Today he had Fred Sims.”
Sims scored 10 points. Wendell Anderson led North Lawndale with 14 points and seven rebounds.
“[Newman’s defense] was one of the keys to the game, no doubt,” Thorpe said.
Orr’s Raekwon Drake, one of the state’s most promising freshman, came off the bench and added 10 points, five rebounds and two blocks.
“We keep losing close games,” Thorpe said. “I really think we can turn the corner, I believe in this team. We just need to tighten a few things up.”