DJ Steward shrugs off Lincoln Park’s intense atmosphere, leads Young to victory

DJ Steward scored 21 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead the No. 5 Dolphins to a 56-50 win against No. 10 Lincoln Park.

SHARE DJ Steward shrugs off Lincoln Park’s intense atmosphere, leads Young to victory
Young’s DJ Steward (21) shoots the ball against Lincoln Park.

Young’s DJ Steward (21) shoots the ball against Lincoln Park.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Lincoln Park’s second-floor gym is so small that the fans in the first row have the tips of their feet inbounds. The close quarters make it one of the loudest basketball experiences in the city. It’s hot and intense and uncomfortable for opposing teams.

Or at least it is supposed to be. Young’s DJ Steward, a Duke recruit, thought it was fun.

“This is my first time coming to Lincoln Park and playing in this gym,” Steward said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this, it was really fun. I just went out there and had a great time, pulled out the W and snapped the streak.”

Steward scored 21 points and grabbed five rebounds to lead the No. 5 Dolphins to a 56-50 win against No. 10 Lincoln Park.

The Lions had beaten Young in conference the last two years and were riding high after a big win at Orr earlier in the week.

“We did a really good job of containing those jump shot shooters,” Dolphins coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “When they are at home they really are electric when they are making shots.”

Young (4-2, 4-0 Red-North/West) never trailed. Sangolay Njie, a 6-8 senior, provided the Dolphins with a major presence in the post. He scored six points, grabbed a game-high eight rebounds and defended Lincoln Park’s 6-8 Romelle Howard.

“That’s my guy, I played AAU with him so I knew how to play him,” Njie said. “We just had to pay attention to detail. He turns over his right shoulder a lot so I just defended that and tried to shut him down.”

Howard had eight points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Ismail Habib led the Lions (7-2, 3-1) with 18 points and Julio Montes added 10.

“Ismail and Julio are really great players, they are young,” Steward said. “They are going to be really good next year. They will have a good chance to win a championship next year.”

Senior Tyler Beard scored 13 and grabbed four rebounds for young and junior Jaeshon Thomas, a transfer from Aurora Christian, helped Young start hot by scoring eight in the first quarter.

“We really had to come out aggressive,” Njie said. “We knew that environment was going to be hasty so we had to come out tenacious. We were ready to rebound and defend and ready to get grimy.”

Howard picked up a technical foul in the second quarter with Lincoln Park trailing 25-22. It resulted in a six-point possession for Young.

“I knew when it happened it was going to be big,” Gordon said. “I simply told Romelle in a game like this we can’t give points away. We need every point we can get. He understood. He’s a passionate guy just competing.”

Young will head to Myrtle Beach and Florida for its next several games. The Dolphins don’t play again in the area until a home game against Westinghouse on January 8.

Lincoln Park likely isn’t on board with Steward’s assertion that it will compete for titles next year. The Lions turned some heads with their win at Orr this week.

“We feel great with where we are at now,” Gordon said. “We have one of the best defenses in the state when it comes down to guarding straight man to man. That is what is going to win championships for us.”

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