The area is in uncharted territory this season. The Class of 2023, this year’s juniors, are newcomers to varsity that in many cases didn’t have a sophomore season at all.
That’s especially true in the Public League. There are unknown standouts to be found everywhere. One revealed himself in spectacular fashion on Wednesday at North Lawndale.
Phoenix junior Jemarje Windfield scored 37 points to lead his team to an 81-78 overtime win against Lincoln Park.
Windfield was efficient, shooting 13-for-20 from the field and 3 of 8 from three-point range. He’s just 5-7 but adept at getting to the basket, an increasingly rare skill these days. And he can pass. Windfield found senior Vincent Mayes in the post for several key baskets late in the game.
“I like mixing up my game so I won’t be predictable,” Windfield said.
Windfield is a runner, also an uncommon thing for a high school basketball player. He’s on the North Lawndale track team.
“I wake up every morning and run,” Windfield said. “Well, when it is nice out. Not in this cold. But I get in the gym and stay active.
North Lawndale (9-6, 3-1 Red-North/West) only played three games last season and Windfield wasn’t on the varsity. But Phoenix coach Carlos Toliver already trusts his point guard.
“He can handle it and he makes good decisions,” Toliver said. “He can shoot from outside and get to the bucket. He’s like a coach on the floor. Whatever I say, he gets into it.”
Windfield streaked down the floor to tie the game in the final seconds of regulation. He scored the first bucket in overtime and then assisted Mayes on the next basket. That put the Phoenix ahead by four, a lead they never relinquished.
Mayes is a known quantity in the city. The 6-5 jumping jack has a natural talent for blocking shots. He was a defensive factor in the first half and then asserted himself offensively in the fourth quarter and overtime, scoring 12 of his 16 points in the final 12 minutes.
Mayes also had 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots.
“I love him,” Windfield said. “Not a lot of big men can perform like him. He comes alive in the clutch moments.”
Mayes did commit goaltending once, but he’s excellent at staying out of foul trouble.
“I don’t jump when the shooter jumps,” Mayes explained. “I jump when the ball goes in the air and then I meet it in the air.”
Lincoln Park had a double-digit lead early and led by two points at halftime.
A pair of seniors, Chikere Nwosu and Chris Hammonds, lead the Lions (11-7, 1-4).
Nwosu, a strong and confident guard, scored 29 points and grabbed five rebounds. His bold drive to the basket put Lincoln Park ahead 67-65 with eight seconds left in regulation. Then he drained a three to pull the Lions within 71-70 with 2:42 to play in overtime.
Hammonds scored 21 and grabbed six rebounds. He was 4 of 5 from three-point range.
“We have some young guys and some freshmen playing a lot and playing at North Lawndale is just a tough game no matter what,” Lincoln Park coach Antwon Jennings said.
Justin Bowen, one of the city’s top freshmen, is out with an ankle injury. He’s a starter for the Lions.
North Lawndale was expected to be one of the better teams in the Public League this season. That may still happen. It’s been a challenging few months so far.
“The kids are going through a lot at home with COVID,” Toliver said. “There have been deaths in the family and all kinds of things. I’m still figuring out the rotation. But with Windfield, Ronald Chambers and Damarion Wyatt I know I have three guards to count on.”
Watch the final minute of Lincoln Park at North Lawndale: