Boys basketball: Lincoln-Way East flashes speed, defense in Veterans Night win over Lockport

Turnovers fuel Griffins to 4-0 start

Lincoln-Way East’s Karson Thomas lays in a shot against Lockport on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Lockport.

LOCKPORT – Under the 22 previous years Rich Kolimas has coached Lincoln-Way East, the Griffins have had some solid teams, including last year’s squad, which made it to sectional play.

But the Griffins may never have had three faster pairs of hands than those belonging to guards B.J. Powell, Brenden Sanders and Karson Thomas, Nos. 2, 3 and 4 in your program.

The trio accounted for a bevy of steals Friday night and hit host Lockport with a hard first punch en route to a 52-39 victory on Veterans Night.

The Porters fell to 3-3, 0-1 in the SouthWest Suburban Blue. The Griffins are 4-0, 1-0 going into Saturday’s nonconference game at Oswego East.

The approximately 140 veterans on hand — including three who served the U.S. in World War II, the oldest a sprightly 102 — received a warm welcome and were treated to a first-quarter clinic by Powell, Sanders and Thomas, who pushed the Griffins to a 10-0 lead and a 16-6 margin after eight minutes.

“We’ve got some quickness,” Kolimas said, trying not to grin. “It’s going to bother some people. It’s a matter of getting more experience. We’re quite young.”

There are only three seniors on East’s varsity. Of that trio, only Jack Mannion started. Powell and Thomas, who scored 11 and 12 points, respectively, are sophomores. Sanders, who also scored 11 points, is a junior.

“We just trust each other on help ‘D’ and are active with our hands,” Sanders said.

The trust allows one of the three to take a chance at a steal while the others guard their man closely. The combination was toxic for the Porters, who committed over a dozen turnovers. The quickness also accounted for more fouls than Kolimas would prefer, but the Porters were 14 of 26 from the free-throw line and just 4 of 10 in the first quarter.

That cast the die early. Lockport never closed to closer than 10 the rest of the first half, nor closer than 14 after the intermission.

For David Wilson, in his first year at the Lockport helm after nine years at Andrew, it’s a matter of getting his players to get with his program, which is up-tempo on offense and pressuring on defense.

“We’ve made a program decision to not play half-court offensive basketball,” Wilson said. “We want to increase the tempo, get easy buckets. We’re going to play the long game with it. It was a philosophical decision.”

It’s also dictated by the roster. Only one Porter is 6-foot-4, and just two are 6-foot-3. That doesn’t lend itself to running screens and clearouts.

“We don’t have size,” Wilson said. “We’ll do this this year, but you always have to adjust. Next year may be different.”

Logan Cooper and Anthony Kosi paced the Porters with nine points each.

Lockport honored over 140 military veterans individual before the start of the game against Lincoln-Way East on Friday, Dec. 1, 2023 in Lockport.