Boys basketball: Yorkville defense stifles short-handed Joliet West

Foxes hold Tigers to single-digit scoring in first, fourth quarters

Yorkville’s Jory Boley goes in for the basket against Joliet West on Friday, Jan. 5th, 2024. in Joliet.

JOLIET – Style points aren’t awarded in basketball, and Yorkville seemed well aware of that Friday night.

The Foxes employed a rugged defense in their road matchup with Joliet West, and when coupled with just enough offense to keep the Tigers at arm’s length all night long, Yorkville was able to claim a 43-29 win.

“We told our guys beforehand we’ve never beaten Joliet West since they’ve been in our conference; we don’t know if we’ve ever beat them,” Yorkville coach John Holakovsky said. “It’s a hard place to play. They are really good. They’re really athletic and they really test you. Our goal, no matter what kind of game it was, ugly or pretty, was to get out of here with a win no matter what, which we did, which we’re happy about. It was ugly, but we’ll take it.”

Yorkville (9-7, 3-4 SPC) showed its intent early on, attempting to force uncomfortable shots out of the Joliet West offensive attack, and it largely worked. West (10-7, 5-2) got only one field goal in the first quarter and found itself in an 11-3 hole after the first quarter.

Yorkville’s Jason Jakstys lays in a shot against Joliet West in Joliet.

Yorkville wasn’t exactly ripping the nets with force either, but constant production came from Jory Boley, who finished with a game-high 16 points. Boley, like multiple regular contributing players for the Foxes, finally is playing at full strength after he and his teammates got off to a slow start because of injuries.

“Before the game, we came in with the mindset that we were about to have our best defensive game of the year,” Boley said. “We held them to, I think, three points in the first quarter and that was good, and we just kept it up the whole game.”

Joliet West did manage to get a bit of a spark at the beginning of the second quarter from Zion Gross and Tristian Saunders, who combined for all 10 of Joliet West’s points in the second quarter and managed to get the Yorkville lead down to 19-13 at the break. But the lack of offensive cohesiveness came back again in the third quarter, as Yorkville built leads as large as 15 points in the frame.

“We played four games in a row last week, had a three-day weekend and then came back with three practices and was hoping we’d be a little cleaner offensively than that,” Holakovsky said. “But my first ever game here, we lost by 40, so I’ll take what I can get. And we’re getting healthy, we’ve got a little bit of a grind in our schedule in January, but hopefully we’re starting to hit our stride a little bit.”

Joliet West’s Aamir Shannon drives to the paint against Yorkville on Friday, Jan. 5th, 2024. in Joliet.

Some of Joliet West’s woes could be attributed to the team’s leading scorer, Justus McNair, not playing in the contest. McNair suffered a hip injury in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament that he tried to play through with limited success, and coach Jeremy Kreiger indicated the team wanted to be sure they knew exactly what they were dealing with injury-wise before inserting him back into the lineup.

McNair’s ability to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates certainly was missed, but Kreiger was quick to credit Yorkville for limiting his team to its lowest offensive output of the past few seasons.

“We couldn’t get any offensive flow, but that’s a credit to Yorkville,” Kreiger said. “You can tell that they watched film. They’re coached very well. We always caution our guys never play a team based on their record. They have senior leadership, They have a Division I basketball player [Jason Jakstys]. You could tell they were switching and crowding our ball reverses up against the sideline. So while we may be young and inexperienced in terms of making plays, the credit goes to them for their defensive game plan.”

Jakstys joined Boley in double figures for Yorkville with 11 points. He also had five blocks.

Gross led Joliet West with eight points.