Lincoln-Way East began the season in the Super 25 with high expectations. The Griffins were expected to be one of the best teams in the South Suburbs this season.
A blowout loss at home to Homewood-Flossmoor knocked Lincoln-Way East out of the rankings. Then a loss to Corliss in late December seemed to cement the fact that the Griffins weren’t going to be much of a factor this season.
“When we got knocked out of the top 25 I feel like a lot of teams started to underestimate us,” Shafer said “We have this passion now to go out and kill teams.”
It is showing. Lincoln-Way East beat Bolingbrook and Joliet Central this past weekend. The Griffins also beat the Raiders at the end of last season, so they entered that game with confidence.
“Going in we knew we could beat them,” Shafer said. “We watched a lot of film, that helped our defense we knew what to do.
“We’ve been developing an inside presence more. Against Bolingbrook when I got inside it opened things up a lot for our shooters and they are capable of making shots.”
Shafer, an SIU commit averaging 19 points and six rebounds a game, is the best player on the team. Senior guards Zach Parduhn and Joey Buggemi are solid and 6-8 sophomore Nate Sepudis has improved throughout the season.
Brandon Petkoff, a 6-2 senior, scored a career-high 23 points in the win against the Steelmen on Saturday.
“[Joliet Central] underestimated us for sure,” Shafer said. “They came out just laughing and not taking us seriously. [Petkoff] came out and hit five three-pointers. They did not expect that.”
Lincoln-Way East is back in the rankings now. The Griffins host Providence on Tuesday and then have a rematch at Homewood-Flossmoor on Saturday.
Fans and media have been mystified by all the parity in the area this season, but Shafer says it is fun for the players.
“It’s very exciting,” Shafer said. “When we go into regionals we know can beat anyone. The key is to come out strong at the start, you have to want it more from the beginning.”
PUBLIC LEAGUE PLAYOFF UPDATE
The Public League playoffs begin on Feb. 6, that much is certain. Conference play was supposed to wrap up on Friday, but there are still two Red-North/West games to be played.
Orr will host Young at 5 p.m. on Wednesday in a game rescheduled from earlier this month, that game will determine the conference champion.
Farragut and North Lawndale are currently in a dispute over their conference game. It doesn’t appear the game will be played. The Phoenix were unable to play on the original game date and Farragut couldn’t make the suggested makeup date.
Admirals coach Wolf Nelson said he expects one team to be given a forfeit and is waiting on a decision from Chicago Public Schools.
The outcome is crucial. If North Lawndale gets the win there will be a four-way tie for fifth place between the Phoenix, Marshall, Prosser and Farragut. The playoff bracket is seeded based on where each team finishes in the conference standings.
At this point Public League coaches are unaware of what the first tiebreaker is, much less how a four-way tie would be decided.