Boys basketball: DeKalb defense stymies Jefferson in regional semifinal win

Davon Grant scores 18 for the Barbs, all in the first half

DeKalb’s Eric Rosenow drives by Jefferson's Samed Shakh Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024, during their Class 4A regional semifinal game at DeKalb High School.

DeKALB – Malfunctioning scoreboards delayed the start of Wednesday’s first DeKalb Class 4A Regional semifinal between the host and Rockford Jefferson. Officials finally started the contest after a backup board was set up that just showed the time and score.

However, DeKalb executed its game plan without a hitch as it overwhelmed Jefferson 45-26 to advance to Friday’s final against Rockford Auburn, 61-49 winners over Hampshire in Wednesday’s second semifinal.

One of the Barbs’ strategies was to contain Jefferson’s big post players, 6-foot-4 Randy Johnson and 6-7 Cortez Christmas.

“For (Christmas) and number five (Johnson), their two big guys, we made sure they were uncomfortable in the post, and we brought the guards down to dig it out, kind of a soft double (team) and make them pass the ball,” DeKalb coach Mike Reynolds said.” I think our guys did that well.”

Second-year Jefferson (17-13) coach Leslie Robinson agreed.

“Their game plan definitely worked, the post defense was great. They played Johnson and Christmas really well,” said the J-Hawks coach. “DeKalb was physical and aggressive with them and that tired them out. Johnson and Christmas are a big part of our offense.”

DeKalb (23-7) gave up only two baskets in the first eight minutes and led 12-4 at the start of the second quarter.

Davon Grant, who is 6-5, was one of the Barbs tasked with guarding the J-Hawks two big post players.

“We played behind them, pushed them out of the paint a little so they wouldn’t be a threat,” the sophomore said.

Grant was also DeKalb’s offensive sparkplug in the first half, scoring all of his game-high 18 points in the first 16 minutes.

“23 (Grant) did a great job,” Robinson said. He had 18 at halftime, that was a big difference.”

The main scoreboards started working during intermission but still only displayed the time and the score. DeKalb started the second half with a 26-6 lead.

Controlling the glass was another factor in the win. DeKalb outrebounded Jefferson, 34-23.

“One of the keys was to hold them to one shot because they are really good on the glass,” Reynolds said.

“We knew they had two solid bigs, and they hit the class pretty hard, so we knew we had to get the rebounds,” senior starter Eric Rosenow said.

Junior Justin O’Neal snared 10 loose balls for DeKalb while Grant pulled down eight.

With the Barbs leading 36-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, Reynolds sat his starters and played his reserves. A Matthew Williams layup scored DeKalb’s last two points.

Marquis Bolden chipped in eight points for the Barbs. Keyshon Stone notched seven points for Jefferson.

Have a Question about this Daily Chronicle article?