Lindblom, normally a program on the fringes of Public League basketball, has been in the spotlight a bit this year. The Eagles have played in two major shootouts and high-scoring junior Je’Shawn Stevenson Jr. recently picked up a scholarship offer from Northern Illinois.
Farragut’s arrival at The Nest, Lindblom’s small, odd and very hot second-floor gym on Wednesday was an opportunity for the Eagles to pick up a non-conference win against one of the brand names of Public League basketball.
The Admirals aren’t as star-studded as they used to be. Co-coaches William Nelson and Emmanuel Little seem to be holding the program together with the sheer force of personality and reputation. But the same toughness and grit and rebounding always present on the best Admirals teams lives on in the current version.
“It’s incredible,” Lindblom coach Narvel Newson said. “Their inside presence is a lot. Those guys played really hungry and thirsty and we had problems with that. It decided the game.”
Farragut led from the start and beat Lindblom 75-65, despite Stevenson scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Stevenson finished with 32 points but it was the Admirals’ leapers that made the difference. Justin Pickens, a 6-5 senior, had 22 points and eight rebounds and 6-6 junior Jaylen James added 14 points and eight rebounds.
“Size doesn’t matter to us,” James said. “You have to get it. We’re from the West Side and we’re scrappy.”
Junior guard Jonathan Calmese is the leader for Farragut (5-7). He has more help in the backcourt this season with the emergence of freshman Latrell Kelly.
“He’s getting used to things and that is helping me a lot,” Calmese said. “But this isn’t eighth grade and he’s going to need some more time to adapt.”
The Admirals haven’t had a sophomore team in years and the varsity roster is down to 10 players, with just seven in the rotation.
“Everyone has more guys than us,” James said. “We just have to go hard and play through that.”
The Admirals might not crack the Super 25 this season, but they will be a major threat in the Class 2A state playoffs. They were competitive against No. 2 Kenwood on Tuesday, losing 82-68.
Lindblom (9-6) has a quality win against Perspectives-Leadership but has fallen short in its other tests so far this season. But the future is bright. Stevenson is already attracting college attention and junior guard Quentin McCoy, who scored 15 against the Admirals, is starting to open eyes as well.
“[McCoy] is a good point guard and he shoots the ball well,” Newson said. “We just have to continue to play tough and to improve.”