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Lemont shakes off inexperience, wins at Sandburg

Lemont has an exciting crop of basketball players on its hands. Nojus Indrusaitis, a 6-4 sophomore, already is generating interest from colleges, and the Castillo twins, a pair of juniors, are exciting guards. 

Lemont’s Matas Castillo (1) controls the ball as Sandburg’s Ty Binns (21) defends.
Lemont’s Matas Castillo (1) controls the ball as Sandburg’s Ty Binns (21) defends.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Lemont has an exciting generation of basketball players on its hands. Nojus Indrusaitis, a 6-4 sophomore, already is garnering interest from colleges, and the Castillo twins, a pair of juniors, are exciting guards.

What Lemont doesn’t have is much experience. Teenagers still are adjusting to life after the pandemic shutdowns. Tuesday in Orland Park was one of the first real road games most of Lemont’s players had experienced.

‘‘There was a band and cheerleaders,’’ coach Rick Runaas said. ‘‘[Indrusaitis] has never [played in front of] a band; he’s never [played in front of] cheerleaders. He played 13 games last year for us and then AAU, with no one yelling at him that he needs to improve his dunk game. Just not getting called out like that. It’s all new.’’

That likely explains some of Lemont’s shakiness to start the season and its letdown in the second half against Sandburg.

Rokas Castillo, who missed key free throws late in a season-opening loss to Bradley-Bourbannais, this time made the crucial free throws in a 58-55 victory against the Eagles.

‘‘I think I just learned from that mistake,’’ said Castillo, who scored 16 points.

Indrusaitis had a handful of breakaway dunks and finished with 12 points and six rebounds. Matas Castillo had seven points and nine assists. He has a knack for finding Indrusaitis and his brother on fast breaks when one of them leaks out early.

‘‘We have a lot of connection together, so it makes it easy on the court,’’ Matas Castillo said. ‘‘On defense we can switch without talking, and on offense we know where we are going.’’

Senior Patrick Gardner (six points, nine rebounds) and junior Miles Beachum (eight rebounds) helped give Lemont (3-2) a significant advantage in the post. It outrebounded Sandburg 38-28.

That advantage helped Lemont survive a brutal night at the free-throw line (16-for-33).

‘‘In the first half we played our best half of the season, and in the second half you saw more like we’ve been playing,’’ Runaas said. ‘‘Just kind of skittering along and not playing with the confidence that I’m used to some of these kids playing with. When things click for young kids, it looks good. And when there is a little more pressure, we haven’t handled it that well. That’s a little bit disconcerting, but I think it’s going to come with time.’’

Lemont led by 19 points at halftime, but Sandburg (1-4) cut its deficit to 42-33 in the third quarter before making a real charge in the fourth.

A three-pointer from senior James White made it a four-point game with 23 seconds left, but Rokas Castillo made all four of his free throws from then on to seal the victory.

Ryan McPolin led the Eagles with 21 points and five rebounds, and senior Ty Binns added 15 points.

John Daniels, who coached at Stagg for 14 years, took over at Sandburg this season.

‘‘We’re playing a lot of guys because I’m new,’’ Daniels said. ‘‘Everybody has got to get a chance. I have to see what they can do. They are working hard in practice.

‘‘The first year is always hard. The effort is great. They are great kids, and they play hard.’’

Watch the final minute of Lemont at Sandburg: