Lincoln-Way West has had three basketball coaches in its six years of existence. That turnover is evident on the current varsity roster. A school with 1,285 students has just nine varsity basketball players, and one of them is a sophomore.
“Every time a coach left some kids would stop playing,” junior Jon Marotta said. “And then when the new coach arrived some others would leave.”
Practicing is the biggest issue with having only nine players.
“We bring up three or four guys from the sophomore team for practice,” Lincoln-Way West coach Brian Flaherty said. “We’re ruining the chemistry on the sophomore team probably.”
Nine guys is more than enough when one of them plays like Marotta did on Friday. The 6-6 forward scored 27 points in the Warriors’ 68-57 win over Bradley-Bourbonnais in New Lenox.
“Jon is certainly not scared of the (big) moment,” Flaherty said.
Marotta shot 10-for-16 from the field and 4-for-5 from three-point range.
“A lot of people see how tall he is and just assume he’ll play in the post,” Flaherty said. “But he’s really playing well as a wing, and I think his best basketball is ahead of him out there.”
Lincoln-Way West (12-3, 5-1 SouthWest Suburban Red) led 35-21 at the half. The Boilermakers (13-3, 4-2) were struggling without 6-8 junior Zach Hollywood, who averaged 14 points and nine rebounds a game. Hollywood has an injured right leg. According to his father he will probably be back playing next week.
Junior guard Micah Bradford did all he could to pick up the slack. He finished with a game-high 30 points. Bradford scored consecutive buckets early in the fourth quarter to cut the Warriors’ lead to
“We knew (Bradley-Bourbonnais) was going to make a run, and we would have to weather the storm,” Flaherty said. “We had (Marco) handling the ball a lot, and I think he was starting to wear down.”
It looked like the favored Boilermakers were about to make a game of it, but Marotta responded with back-to-back 3-pointers to end the threat.
“Down the stretch there I just knew we had to take care of the ball and we’d be ok,” Marotta said.
The Warriors managed just three wins Marotta’s freshman year. The program is obviously still in the building stages.
“(The success this season) has been huge,” Marotta said. “We haven’t had a big student section like this in the past.”
Senior Trace Howard scored 17 for Lincoln-Way West, and sophomore Marco Pettinato added 14 points and six rebounds.
“We’d like to have more guys on the team,” Marotta said. “But we are a good, close knit group. We all hang out, and everyone gets along.”
That’s evident on the court. The Warriors were completely unselfish with the ball.
“They have the gift of passing,” Flaherty said. “The boys really executed well, and it didn’t hurt that they shot the ball pretty well.”