DePaul Prep has a very solid starting five and a couple of key players that come off the bench. But that’s about it. Rams coach Tommy Kleinschmidt does not have a lot of depth.
That isn’t always a problem during a normal high school basketball season, but this isn’t a normal season. The No. 19 Rams beat host St. Rita 55-35 on Wednesday. It was their third game in three days.
“It’s always difficult to play three games in a row but we get a lot of treatment,” DePaul Prep senior TY Johnson said. “Our coaches help us through it. Even at home we try to take care of our bodies as much as possible.”
The Rams knocked off Brother Rice on Monday and won at Leo on Tuesday.
“We came out flat last night against Leo,” DePaul Prep senior Rasheed Bello said. “So we had to pick it up this game and play hard and physical and not let them have anything easy.”
Bello and Johnson both played well in the first quarter and got the Rams (11-2, 10-2 Catholic League Blue) off to a good start. But St. Rita dominated the second quarter and cut DePaul’s lead to five by halftime.
Bello, a Wisconsin-Parkside recruit, and Johnson, a Loyola recruit, completely dominated the second half. Their ball handling ability allowed the Rams to spread the floor and have long possessions.
“We weren’t holding the ball or anything but we wanted to try and get them out and spread things out a little bit and drive,” Kleinschmidt said. “The start of the half was the key to the game. We were seniors tonight. We knew we had to come out strong in the third quarter and make sure their young team didn’t get to build any confidence.”
Bello led the Rams with 17 points and Johnson scored 16. Senior Jabari Sawyer added seven points.
DePaul Prep has two talented bigs, 6-10 senior Brian Mathews and 6-9 junior Dylan Arnett. Their consistency will be a key factor in the Rams’ quarterfinal game against Young in the Chipotle Clash of Champions on Friday at St. Patrick. The Dolphins are loaded with players taller than 6-5.
“They are going to be really important,” Bello said. “We have to trust in them as a team. Our coaching staff has trust in them and they will be ready to play.”
St. Rita (4-7, 4-5) has taken its lumps this season while getting its talented young core some valuable experience. The group that Mustangs coach Roshawn Russell has assembled lived up to the hype, for the most part, this season.
James Brown, the state’s top-ranked freshman, had seven points and six rebounds. Morez Johnson, another highly-regarded freshman, added six points and six rebounds. Senior Christian Henry led the Mustangs with 11 points. Sophomore Bryce Coleman, who transferred from St. Joseph shortly before the season, added five points. Freshman Josh Pickett and sophomore Solomon Mosley started and sophomore Evan Jackson played significant minutes off the bench.
“I’ll be honest, I feel for our seniors,” Russell said. “Guys like [Henry] are getting their first experience taking some losses. But the future is really bright. If this was a normal year, come playoff time I don’t think anybody would want to play us. We’re getting better every game.”
Watch the final minute of St. Rita at DePaul Prep: