Young typically opens its season in the Chicago Elite Classic, then spends December playing basketball all over the country before returning to the city for conference play in mid-January.
That isn’t possible this season because of the Illinois Department of Health’s guidelines. So the Dolphins will be popping up in gyms all over the area. They knocked off Taft on the road in the season opener Friday, then ran into a tough and talented Mount Carmel team Saturday.
The No. 2 Dolphins escaped with an 81-71 road victory. They’ll play at St. Laurence on Sunday.
“During a regular year, we would go on the road, so we are just going to try to replicate that locally,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “Today our kids could have quit because there were some tough calls here and there. But they kept playing and found a way to win.”
Grant Newell and Xavier Amos each scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help the Dolphins pull away from Mount Carmel, which led by five at halftime.
“Early on, we had some mistakes because they came out with a lot of energy,” Young junior AJ Casey said. “We had a couple of technicals that kind of threw us off, but we just focused and rebounded.”
Casey, a 6-8 guard, led the Dolphins with 16 points and had six rebounds. The state’s top-ranked junior once again finds himself in a new situation. Last year, he was the do-it-all star at Tinley Park, and in his freshman year at Simeon, he was the phenom surrounded by older talent.
“No one on this team has to do one specific thing,” Casey said. “We can all pretty much do everything. I have a lot of help, and it makes it a lot easier.”
Newell, a 6-6 senior, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds, and Amos, a 6-8 junior, added 15 points and four rebounds.
“[Casey] made some big plays defensively, then [Amos] made some huge blocks that really kind of turned them away and impacted the game,” Slaughter said. “It was a team effort. We are just trying to get it all figured out.”
Mount Carmel coach Phil Segroves isn’t into moral victories, but he knows that hanging with Young for four quarters will earn his team respect around the area.
“[Matthew Hawkins, Jadyn Benson and Grant Mason] came in with me when I started here,” Segroves said. “I knew they could help get the program back to where we want it to be and where Mount Carmel people expect it to be. We’re excited. But we have got to get better so we can finish these games out. You can’t let it slip away like that.”
Hawkins (21 points), Mason (18 points, four rebounds) and highly regarded sophomore Deandre Craig (12 points, four rebounds) attacked the basket from the start.
“We played Wednesday, Thursday and Friday,” Segroves said. “We didn’t talk about Young until last night after the tough Marmion win. We took things one game at a time and didn’t want to make one game bigger than another. But there were some extra butterflies playing against a great program like [Young].”
The Caravan (4-2) shot 40 free throws. Young shot 22.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Slaughter said. “I’ve never been in a game where a team shot 40 free throws, but I guess it is early.”
Watch the final minute of Young at Mount Carmel: