North Lawndale beats Marshall in West Side city tournament showdown

North Lawndale, which opened in 1998 and started varsity basketball in 2000, has never finished a season with a losing record. So there is plenty of pride to play for over the next few weeks.

SHARE North Lawndale beats Marshall in West Side city tournament showdown
North Lawndale’s Jemarje Winfield (3) shoots for three against Marshall.

North Lawndale’s Jemarje Winfield (3) shoots for three against Marshall.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The spotlight shifted away from the West Side this season. Only Young has been a regular in the Super 25. More than half of the teams in the formerly mighty Red-North/West have losing records heading into the city playoffs.

North Lawndale, one of the traditional West Side powers, went through a coaching change right before the season began. Assistant Randy Stonewall stepped up to take over the program in November.

It’s been a down year overall for the Phoenix, who are just 9-10 after knocking off visiting Marshall 70-65 in the first round of the Public League playoffs on Wednesday.

North Lawndale, which opened in 1998 and started varsity basketball in 2000, has never finished a season with a losing record. So there is plenty of pride to play for over the next few weeks.

Senior Jemarje Windfield has been the rock for North Lawndale the past two years. The point guard came through again against the Commandos (12-10). He and junior Davarus Spann each scored 17 points.

“[Windfield] has been great,” Stonewall said. “He could score more if we needed but he’s accepted being more of a facilitator, balancing out his statistics with assists this season.”

Spann, Windfield and junior Tyshun Moore dished out too much pressure in the backcourt for Marshall to handle. It led to 23 turnovers for the Commandos.

“That was the game plan,” Spann said. “We thought their guards would give the ball up.”

Spann has emerged as North Lawndale’s leading scorer this season.

“It was a great victory,” Spann said. “We needed to win in this first round. We’ve been progressing as the days go by.”

Moore had 14 points and four steals. Senior Tresean Davis added nine points and three steals. Spann, a 6-4 guard, is the tallest player in North Lawndale’s rotation. The Phoenix were outrebounded 44-23.

“It’s been hard all season, battling against bigger guys and getting hit in the head all the time,” Windfield said. “We are just trying to box out and take charges.”

North Lawndale built double-digit leads several times in the second half but Marshall wouldn’t go away. A rebound and basket by Ja’Juan Cozark pulled the Commandos within 58-57 with 5:54 to play.

Marshall missed five free throws in the fourth quarter, ending any hopes of a comeback win, and shot just 11-for-22 from the line in the game.

“We need to make more free throws and have less turnovers,” Commandos coach Henry Cotton said. “The city playoffs are over for us now. We will have some time before the state playoffs. We just need to get consistent.”

Marshall’s Ja’Juan Cozark (24) dunks the ball over North Lawndale’s Davarus Spann (2).

Marshall’s Ja’Juan Cozark (24) dunks the ball over North Lawndale’s Davarus Spann (2).

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

Marshall is a Class 1A school in the state playoffs. The Commandos have the size and ability to make a serious run at a trip to Champaign.

Cozark, a 6-6 senior, may be the best unknown player in the city. He finished with 29 points and 13 rebounds, shooting 10 of 14 from the field and 2-for-3 from three-point range.

“He’s a double-double every night,” Cotton said. “He has a lot of junior colleges interested. He can play with the best in the city.”

North Lawndale will face Lindblom, a 77-56 winner against Morgan Park, in the second round of the playoffs on Friday.

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