Deerfield is taller than plenty of college teams. The Warriors’ starters are 6-1, 6-3, 6-7, 6-9 and 6-10. That’s a massive problem for any high school team to deal with and visiting Rolling Meadows didn’t have an answer for that size on Wednesday.
Deerfield beat the Mustangs 55-40 and had a 36-19 rebounding advantage. The Warriors held Rolling Meadows star Max Christie, the state’s most highly-regarded prospect, to just six points.
“[Deerfield’s size] is really hard to prepare for,” Mustangs coach Kevin Katovich said. “They did a nice job with box and one [on Christie] and then sent two other guys at him. There were three guys on him the whole game. And he’s still not 100 percent. It is a process, we will get there.”
Christie missed almost all of January with a thigh injury. He returned to action on Monday and scored 40 points in a win against Niles West.
“Obviously our game plan was anybody but him,” Deerfield coach Dan McKendrick said. “We wanted to keep him from getting open looks and make him work all night. We are getting a little lucky. His conditioning isn’t where it will be in a couple weeks when he is back in the flow.”
Christie, who visited Duke while he was injured, was 2-for-8 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds.
“We had an excellent couple days of practice preparing for him,” Deerfield junior Brandon Lieb said. “We knew exactly what we wanted to do and how to shut him down. He’s a great player, I have played with him in AAU.”
Lieb, a 6-10 center, is becoming a force. He finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds. He’s averaging 17 points this season.
“[Lieb] has just gotten so much more confidence,” Deerfield guard Ara Emerzian said. “Last year he was a little shaky, trying to rush his shots. This year he has just made huge leaps and that has been big for us.”
Lieb is still thin, but he’s becoming a fast, dependable finisher in the post.
“Just compared to last year I’m tremendously more confident,” Lieb said. “That has been the biggest improvement in my game, it has really helped me step up.”
Emerzian added 14 points. Walter Mattingly, a 6-7 sophomore, and 6-9 Jackson Kenyon each added eight points for the Warriors (16-9). Daniel Golub added four points and seven rebounds. Golub and Emerzian, Deerfield’s guards, may be the team’s key to any state playoff success.
“We are solid,” Emerzian said. “We’ve had some trouble handling the ball this season but we’ve been working on that a lot and made improvements. We’ve been doing a good job of feeding the post and getting everyone involved.”
Rolling Meadows (12-10) cut Deerfield’s lead to 42-34 with 5:17 left. Emerzian responded with two big baskets to end the threat.
“We are trying to win out to get a nice seed in the playoffs,” Lieb said. “We are playing our best basketball now, which is what you want.”
Javonte Warrener led the Mustangs with 16 points. They will be focused on getting Christie back up to full speed. This was his second lowest scoring game of the season, he scored two points against Wheaton-Warrenville South back in November.
“He’s probably at about 80 percent right now but he’s such a competitor that he wants to be out there,” Katovich said.